Earlier last year, when 3GPP completed the standardization of NB-IoT as part of Release 13, a few things became apparent:
First, that despite the existence of proprietary solutions like LoRa and Sigfox, there was a shared vision amongst operators to pursue a more standardized approach to evolving an architecture for supporting a network of Internet of Things devices.
Second, there was a common goal to leverage existing RAN and core network infrastructure for inclusion of next generation machine-type communications by allowing the NB-IoT technology to be deployed either in-band with existing LTE networks or making it very suitable for the re-farming of GSM channels.
Third, simply using standard GSM, WCDMA or LTE chipsets for IoT devices would not be pragmatic, especially given the Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) requirements of these devices, and hence new NB-IoT device chipsets would need to be developed.
Growing interest in NB-IoT solutions
Today, there is a growing consensus that Cellular IoT networks built atop 3GPP standards such as NB-IoT are likely to be much more secure, scalable and cost-effective than competing non-cellular options. They are poised to provide better quality of service and coverage, and would be the preferred choice for any enterprise evaluating rolling out IoT devices for its business at a commercial scale.
The coming of age of the NB-IoT eco-system now depends on how rapidly device, RAN and core vendors can incorporate support for release 13 specifications into their respective products and solutions. While the device/chipset and RAN vendors work on their part, we at Brocade have been working hard at evolving our virtualized packet core to include NB-IoT support.
In 3GPP Release 13, the concept of a new core network function called the CIoT Serving Gateway Node (C-SGN) has been brought forth to cater to and service NB-IoT devices. This function follows a ‘collapsed’ approach in the sense that it combines the functions of MME, SGW and PGW into a single entity. Since NB-IoT devices are likely to use the control plane itself for small data delivery, and the requirements for the user plane thin down to the occasional support for firmware over the air (FOTA) scenarios, having a single entity with a collocated user and control plane is considered more efficient.
Brocade vC-SGN as a control plane optimized avatar of the Brocade vEPC
for all packet core deployment use cases. A nodal decomposition into MME, SGW and PGW unnecessarily limits the scalability and software efficiency that is otherwise possible with a virtualized EPC. Mobile packet cores need to be thought about in units of mobile workloads that can process control plane, user plane and sessions plane transactions for a certain scale and to service a certain number of subscribers. As a function of this, we have evolved a framework which renders itself flexible for a range of industry use cases. Control and user plane separation and independent scaling in either of those dimensions is native to the Brocade VCM architecture.
With the Brocade vC-SGN launch, we seek to combine the pre-existing linear scalability and stateless design of our control plane architecture with new NB-IoT specific features for small data delivery. The goal is to be able to demonstrate a highly scalable control plane that can support very high density CIoT deployments with tens of thousands of eNBs and a high transaction rate.
To learn more about the recently launched Brocade vC-SGN, come visit us at the Brocade booth in Hall 2 Suite 2G29 at MWC 2017.