Ericsson waves 5G core flag at O2 following Nokia AWS news

Telefonica O2 confirms it has two parallel 5G cores as it gives itself optionality with Nokia on AWS - and Ericsson on Ericsson.

A week after Nokia and Telefonica O2 released news of a 5G core deployment on AWS, Ericsson has moved to remind the world that it, in fact, operates the vast majority of the operator’s 5G core network.

The two partners put out a release stating that they have agreed a multi-year contract extension for Ericsson’s provision of its 5G dual-mode core, which it deploys using its NFVI and Cloud Native Infrastructure Solution.

The release also made time to highlight the work that Ericsson has done to support automated operations of the software lifecycle, saying they have completed a “world first” In-Service Software Upgrade (ISSU) of core network functions in the production network “under load, at scale and without service disruption” using Ericsson’s bare metal Containers-as-a-Service infrastructure, by which containers are deployed on bare metal servers.

So with Ericsson retaining more generally the contract to provide 5G Core through its dual-mode 5G Core solution – supported by its NFVI and CNIS infrastructure – what was last week’s release with Nokia all about?  At that time, it certainly seemed like O2 was interested in looking at the cost and resource profile of operating in a public cloud, and availing itself of AWS’ orchestration for its CNF workloads.

TMN was told by O2’s Bas Hendrikx, Head of Cloud Center of Excellence, “Operating your own cloud would require enormous investments and tie up resources in terms of maintenance, monitoring, optimisation, and expansion.

“We therefore consider the move to the public cloud to be the right one for the 5G Cloud Core. However, we also see the advantages of a private cloud for other network functions such as Subscriber Data Management (SDM), the 5G user database, which is why we are relying on a hybrid cloud model for our overarching cloud transformation for networks and IT.”

There are now two (cloud-native) cores running in parallel

And yet O2 is indeed operating its own private cloud, using Ericsson technology, for its main 5G core deployment. So what gives? Well, it seems to be about proving out the public cloud use case, starting small but with plans to grow, whilst keeping the majority of users on its Ericsson infrastructure. That gives the operator some future optionality and deployment flexibility, should it want it. Worth remembering also that the operator is one player within a large Group operator, which will undoubtedly be learning and sharing the lessons from Germany.

A Telefonica O2 spokesperson told TMN, “There are now two (cloud-native) cores running in parallel: o2 Telefónica is running the core network of around 45 million customers based on Ericsson technology (and Ericsson cloud) – including 5G, 4G and 2G.

“In parallel, we have implemented a new 5G Cloud Core with AWS and Nokia, which will run one million customers in the cloud from AWS – focused on 5G Standalone customers in a first step. Both packet cores – with Ericsson technology as well as AWS/Nokia – have full functionalities (User plane and Control plane).”

“We are already cooperating with Ericsson in the core network since 2020. With the AWS/Nokia collaboration in parallel, we took a step further to implement the core network in the public cloud. o2 Telefónica is the first telco with an existing network that made this move to the AWS cloud infrastructure.”