5G Technology Transformation

Executive Summary

With the 5G era in full swing and growing, service providers must ensure that their infrastructure has the cloud-native, containerized, service-based architecture necessary to capitalize on the opportunities 5G presents. To outperform competitors, service providers will need the right security, visibility, and control to protect their 5G network and their customers, and to enable the adaptive applications that will underly the future of 5G

Cloud-Native 5G Transformation

At this stage in the 5G evolution, service providers have deployed 5G radio access networks and are now in the process of deploying standalone 5G networks, which unlock the future growth potential for technology innovations enabled only on cloud-native platforms.

5G offers the potential for 10 to 100 times higher data rates, possibly as high as 10 Gbps.

Radio Access upgrades, standalone 5G core, and edge computing developments have led to near real-time latency compared with legacy 4G networks, a reduction from around 20 milliseconds to as little as 1 millisecond, with ultra-reliability (99.999 percent). These technologies also offer the potential for 10 to 100 times higher data rates, possibly as high as 10 Gbps.

Figure 1: The advantages of 5G over 4G LTE networks include massive increases in speed, connection density, and efficiency.

This increased speed and reduced latency, combined with the ability to connect with billions of devices, is opening a whole new world of applications that are available to more users. These new capabilities generate roughly 1,000 times greater data volumes than were present on yesterday’s mobile networks. Competitive service providers rapidly conceive, develop, deploy, and scale new applications and services for their subscribers that take advantage of these new opportunities while maintaining the flexibility to respond to trends.

Cloud-Native with Complete Automation

The 5G world requires adaptive applications—which, much like living organisms, must grow, shrink, defend themselves, and heal any damage based on the environment they’re in and how they’re being used. New applications in a 5G future will scale immensely, with full automation across multi-vendor integrations that interoperate using standard Kubernetes APIs. As service providers enable adaptive applications, they will be better able to deliver value to customers and partners.

Modern applications are able to grow, shrink, defend themselves, and heal any damage based on the environment they’re in and how they’re being used.

Containerized applications help reduce TCO because they allow the automation of the routine tasks and actions that make up a large proportion of data flow through the network. Containerized applications can also scale both predictively (for example, in response to expected increases in demand like the ones retailers see for Black Friday/Cyber Monday), as well as on demand. This ability to scale helps keep CapEx and OpEx under control. Additionally, the same data that enables adaptive applications to be responsive to demands can be used to develop AI and machine learning solutions that further optimize performance.

Like any applications, adaptive applications require app services. The telecom chapter of the F5 2020 State of Application Services Report Telecom Edition revealed that, on average, service providers each have more than 1,000 applications to support, and that 90 percent of those apps have multi-cloud deployments. As a result, service providers are prioritizing application services that provide application and network security as well as access control. They are also looking for app services that easily integrate with their existing and future architectures.

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Making 5G Work: Infrastructure

To meet future demands for speed and agility, competitive service providers build fully automated platforms while maintaining high performance, flexibility, and security.  From an infrastructure perspective, service providers will be offering most of these new services on a new standalone (SA) 5G Core. This new infrastructure will deliver greatly enhanced and flexible service creation, automation, scalability, and resilience.

A 5G cloud-native infrastructure is the catalyst that merges traditional service provider IT and network groups, creating an enterprise-centric 5G network.

In practice, the 5G core shares all the major characteristics of modern adaptive application platforms:

    •  Cloud-native
    •  Microservices-based
    •  Built on a service-based architecture
    •  Containerized (in Kubernetes)
    •  Designed to incorporate a service mesh

A 5G cloud-native infrastructure is the catalyst that merges traditional service provider IT and network groups, creating an enterprise-centric 5G network.


Implementing a service-based architecture (SBA) on a cloud-native infrastructure is the transformative prerequisite to deploying SA 5G Core networks. A critical inflection point is occurring; when service providers implement SBA, 5G makes it possible to deploy and manage the distributed networks needed for modern application requirements for scaling subscriber growth. Service providers’ multi-cloud networks respond to increasing demands for instantaneous access to cloud services from the core, edge, and far edge of the network. A 5G cloud-native infrastructure is the catalyst that merges traditional service provider IT and network groups, creating an enterprise-centric 5G network.  

Figure 2: Cloud-native containerization promotes agility, speed, and efficiency.


1   |   Modularity and reusability
The network is composed of modularized services (microservices) which split monolithic services into discrete functions that can be upgraded or scaled independently and can also be reused in different network functions. 

2   |   Cloud-native 
Cloud-native computing allows for continuous delivery, which reduces the time to test and integrate applications and, in turn, reduces the time to market to deliver new features or bug fixes. Cloud-native microservices are almost always containerized using Kubernetes, which allows them to be centrally orchestrated and moved between locations regardless of the underlying infrastructure. 

3   |   Extensibility 
Service-based interfaces can easily be scaled without introducing new reference points, and traffic can be readily balanced or offloaded by deploying a new instance of the network function service. 

4  |   Openness 
A service-based interface (as well as some control functions, such as authentication) can easily be exposed to external users, such as third-party application developers. Service providers can also build their networks with best-of-breed solutions rather than being locked into a single vendor.

Making 5G Work: Management

In addition to the baseline infrastructure needed for a successful SA 5G Core implementation, service providers ensure that networks meet key requirements that optimize Quality of Experience (QoE), as well as securing networks against an evolving threat landscape that takes advantage of 5G’s increased attack surface. This early in the 5G transformation journey, service providers implementing a cloud-native infrastructure are leaders in the industry.

5G infrastructure is built on cloud-native containerized workloads managed using Kubernetes, which requires extended functionality for carrier-grade deployments. Service providers building cloud-native platforms using Kubernetes require solutions to enhance the platform to manage mobility protocols:

  • Visibility: Network traffic visibility is vital in any mobile network and even more so in a 5G network. Kubernetes does not inherently provide ingress or egress traffic visibility into the Kubernetes nodes and clusters.
  • Security: Security controls need to be applied at multiple points in the network and across multiple layers. Packet capture and other security measures at container ingress are critical for keeping bad traffic out of the network. Encryption is also fundamental in a 5G network security offering.
  • Control: Policy management and analytics enable network control and are essential in automating an already complex 5G network.

A containerized, cloud-native 5G architecture is critical to meeting diverse service requirements. Container workloads managed with Kubernetes are particularly important. Their dynamic nature easily adapts to the needs of the network, promoting agility, speed, and efficiency by allowing for the proper placement of an application and its workloads within the network.

Figure 3: A 5G cloud-native infrastructure can help deliver instantaneous access to cloud services in a platform-agnostic way, from the core, edge, and far edge of the network.


Service providers are transforming, building 5G standalone networks that run on a cloud-native infrastructure, using service-based architectures, and including hundreds if not thousands of edge compute facilities.

The transition to modernized services on a standalone 5G Core puts service providers at the intersection of the telecom and IT worlds. F5 has solutions and extensive experience servicing modernizing platforms, helping service providers transition to the 5G Core and 5G signaling. F5’s solution suite for cloud-native 5G platforms—including Service Proxy for Kubernetes, containerized network functions, and service mesh—can help service providers modernize with new 5G technology while protecting their previous generation investments.



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