Managing the performance of mobile networks has always been a challenge. The introduction of 5G networks and technologies brings further complexities as there is a large variety of new traffic types with demanding quality of service requirements. The TWAMP protocol has become the standard protocol for monitoring the end-to-end quality of the mobile networks. TWAMP offers multiple benefits:
- Interoperability. The TWAMP protocol was already standardized more than 15 years ago in IETF (RFC5357) and thus TWAMP implementations on the market are fairly robust and mature.
- Accuracy. TWAMP has been designed to be simple and accurate with the possibility to eliminate processing delays in the reflector from the measurement results.
- Integrated. The TWAMP protocol has been widely implemented in the network devices including both routers and base stations (eNB and gNB) from all the major vendors on the market. Thus, the capability for TWAMP measurements in the mobile networks is widely available, both end-to-end between core and base stations as well as for measuring the intermediate network segments.
In many cases mobile operators have resorted to using the solution offered by their mobile equipment vendor using a TWAMP initiator (the device sending out the TWAMP measurement packets) located in the base station (eNB or gNB) and the reflector (the device reflecting the TWAMP measurement packets) being located at a core site. However, this approach has several drawbacks:
- Reflector scalability. The reflector at the core site must reflect back packets sent from each base station and service class meaning that the reflector has to handle a large number of packets per second (PPS), typically multiple thousands of PPS. In 5G networks the number of service classes to monitor at least doubles or triples and link and throughput capacities increase by a factor of 10 meaning that the reflector must be able to handle hundreds of thousands of PPS. Today’s reflector solutions offered by the mobile equipment vendors cannot handle this scalability and the operator needs to install multiple expensive devices to meet the scalability requirements.
- Lack of data analytics tools for efficient analysis of the data. The mobile equipment vendors’ focus is on the 5G feature set of the equipment and performance management is a second priority. Thus, the element managers provide simple Excel reports or CSV exports without feature-rich and efficient analytics tools to provide comprehensive visibility into the network for solving complex network transport and application issues.
- Lack of a consolidated view into network performance. Although the TWAMP protocol itself has been standardized, the actual consolidation, analytics and reporting of the results are not standardized. Thus, in a multi-vendor environment with devices from multiple mobile equipment vendors, each vendor covers only their own sub-domain in terms of the performance monitoring and it is the responsibility of the operator to harmonize the performance data reported by each of the vendors and to perform the analytics on the harmonized data set.
Operators typically need to spend a lot of resources to manually produce individual reports from each domain as well as to consolidate the reports into an end-to-end view that can be shared with operations, planning, and optimization teams and executives. Automating this process by integrating all the element managers can bewit a multi-year and multi-million dollar project.
A Centralized Approach to Performance Monitoring in 5G Networks
There is, fortunately, a better way to efficiently provide a consolidated, end-to-end view of network performance across multiple vendors and domains. The solution is to deploy a few specialized probes at central core locations to measure performance with TWAMP towards the base stations and intermediate transport network elements. Together with the specialized probes, an accompanying performance management system is deployed as well to control all the measurements, collect the measurement results, and run analytics, machine learning and AI methods to produce the needed consolidated reports for the different user groups.
Figure 1 A centralized TWAMP Approach for 5G Multi-Vendor Performance Management
This approach has multiple benefits:
- Scalability. The specialized probes that have been designed particularly for TWAMP measurements have much better scalability than the devices offered by the mobile equipment vendor that include a lot of other functionality as well. Specialized TWAMP probes can easily handle up to hundreds of thousands of PPS:es, so you only need a few at some core locations to cover the entire network rather than stacking multiple reflectors for each core site.
- Harmonized view: Specialized probes are in charge of the performance monitoring for all different domains in the network and thus the analytics, machine learning and reports are applied to a consistent set of data regardless of the mobile equipment vendors. Monitored devices only need to implement simple TWAMP reflector functionality, which is available today in most of the network devices. All specialized logic and advanced analytics are done in the specialized probes and the associated performance management system, guaranteeing a harmonized set of results across different vendors’ devices.
- Segmented view: Using specialized TWAMP probes at central locations not only offers you the end-to-end view of network performance between the core and base station locations, but also offers the possibility to monitor the performance towards the intermediate routers and radio links along the path to the base station in order to segment the network performance view and find the segments that introduce most of the quality impairments. The segmented view of the network quality is important for efficient troubleshooting of performance issues.
- Cost-efficiency: To monitor a very large network, you only need to deploy a few specialized probes in central locations and use the built-in TWAMP reflector functionality in the monitored devices. With a centralized solution you have all data stored centrally in one system and get a harmonized view across the multiple vendors avoiding manual work to consolidate the reports. You also avoid having to do multiple integrations with higher level OSS systems as the centralized TWAMP solution also acts as a mediator towards the OSS systems offering a consolidated multi-vendor view of the network performance.
The TWAMP protocol has become the defacto standard for mobile network performance monitoring. With the introduction of 5G it is more important than ever to understand the performance of your network in order to ensure that all the new traffic types get the performance they need. A centralized approach to perform monitoring is the best alternative in order to stay on the pulse of your network.
To learn more about how to build modern monitoring capabilities, you can read the mobile transport customer case study from our web site or download our Mobile transport performance monitoring solution brief.
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