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How distributed is a distributed EPC?


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How distributed is a distributed EPC?

  1. 1. How distributed is a distributed EPC? Mark Grayson 18 posts sinceMay 13, 2009The recent Unstrung article ( has triggeredquite some discussion regarding the level of distribution we can expect in future mobilearchitectures. But the question is, "how distributed is distributed?" Is the vision to have theIP Point of Attachment (Mobile GW) co-located at the base station, much the way folks aretalking about local breakout with femto-cells? Or is the vision a little more conservative?The first thing to recognize is that todays packet core architectures are "super-concentrated", with the IP Point of Attachment (e.g., GGSN) being located in a centralizeddata center. Certainly its not uncommon for a very large operator (lets say 80M subs) tohave a very few data centers (lets say 4); or 20M subs per location. Contrast this with legacyMSC sites which typically serve between 250k and 1M subs and we see a clear disparity,and hence the "super-concentrated" description.The next area to consider is sustained throughput. In an upcoming Heavy Reading videowebinar ( I discuss the cellsite depreciation for a 10 GB/month user - the hypothesis that HSPA is fine for todays1GB/month iphone user but that LTE and EPC needs to have ambition to support morethan iphone, for example to scale to support the 10 GB/month user. A single 10GB/monthuser in this example consumes something like 75 kbps in the busy hour. So looking at our"super concentrated" deployment, would require a massive 1.5Tbps of sustained throughputacross the mobile GW! Contrast this with an IP Point of Attachment at the MSC site, andit only have to support 75 Gbps of sustained throughput - a figure that iometrix concluded( could be supported by Ciscos GGSN today!Then we need to look at the flows. Unfortunately, the reality is that the majority of flows maybe going off-net and so need to access the Internet. Outside of the US, operators (and oftencountries) have centralized IP POP architectures where peering and transit services can beaccessed. So we need to be cautious about any predicted cost savings from distributing theIP Point of Attachment but still requiring the flows to be transported to a centralized IP POPfor connection to the Internet.Generated by Jive SBS on 2010-11-29-07:00 1
  2. 2. How distributed is a distributed EPC?Then we need to recognize that LTE will likely be deployed in islands with frequent inter-RAT handover between LTE, 3G and perhaps even 2G technology. These legacy systemshave hierarchical access networks, typically terminating at the MSC-site. So if frequenthandovers need to be supported, any benefits from distributing the IP Point of Attachmentwill be lost if the user is accessing via the legacy RAN network.Finally, from an organizational perspective, distributing the IP Point of Attachment will likelyinvolve hosting such functionality on a transport platform. We need to recognize that manyoperators have different organizations dealing with packet core and transport and so evenwhen there is a clear architectural benefit, there may be some organizational inhibitors tofully distributing the IP Point of Attachment.Bottom line, operators need to start planning today to evolve their "super concentrated"packet cores towards a "more distributed" architecture. That architecture will surely seemobile GWs move out of the centralized datacenter and head towards the MSC-location.More distributed approaches may apply to niche scenarios, for example to greenfield LTEdeployments or where a countrys regulator has already mandated a very distributed IP POParchitecture.Tags: lte, epc Ritesh Kumar 7 posts sinceMay 22, 2009 Reply 1. Re: How distributed is a distributed EPC? Nov 7, 2009 4:14 PMIn the cost aspect, following factors play a role: • Cost of Backhauling yourself vs. cost of ISP to backhaul - and this becomes especially important for countries where they have "concentrated" Internet PoPs. Also depends on the mobile operator, if it has enough capability (wired infra, skills et all) to backhaul 10s of 100s of Gigs. • Distribution has extra CapEx cost and this gets ignored. Especially the capex involved in PCEF (Policy Control Enforcement Point), Monitoring equipment, security, Internet routers et all • Though, we have to be careful that CapEx is not completely removed when we move from distribution to centralization, its only "partially" reduced. • Opex cost of distribution - engineering and operations cost increase with the number of locations • There is a cost associated with centralization, this again gets ignored. when you start to backhaul 100s of Gbps or even Tbps, all the network elements like core routers, datacenters switches need to get upgraded with high speed linecards.Generated by Jive SBS on 2010-11-29-07:00 2
  3. 3. How distributed is a distributed EPC? Ritesh Kumar 7 posts sinceMay 22, 2009 Reply 2. Re: How distributed is a distributed EPC? Nov 7, 2009 3:50 PMOne pitfall that I have seen with distribution is that operators focus on the very busy markets,and try to break that market away. This is right strategy, but only partially.Distribution should account for a a national view of all markets. And this will create a moreregional distribution structure - neither too centralized (like it exists in most operators today)nor too distributed.Generated by Jive SBS on 2010-11-29-07:00 3