Intercontinental 5G Network Slice

5G-VINNI 5TONIC Spain facility site and NorthEastern University (USA) ARENA site collaborate to create an intercontinental 5G network slice

Experimentation at the 5G-VINNI Spain Facility.

This article describes a joint-project, between the 5TONIC 5G-VINNI Spanish laboratory and the American NorthEastern ARENA laboratory, to create an intercontinental 5G network slice that allows to explore the capabilities of this technology in an E2E long-distance scenario.

Since December 2019, the University Carlos III and Telefónica I+D have collaborated with the NorthEastern University (USA) on a joint project that will enable the creation of an intercontinental network slice. The project is Opensource-oriented and, therefore, it is built around Opensource software platforms as Open Air Interface (OAI) and srsLTE; its main objective is to test and stress the capabilities of those platforms in an intercontinental scenario and stablish a stable infrastructure that will enable the development of future experiments.

The ARENA laboratory is an open-access wireless testing platform based on a grid of antennas mounted on the ceiling of a large office-space environment. Each antenna is connected to programmable software-defined radios (SDR) enabling sub-6GHz 5G-and-beyond spectrum research. It is comprised of 12 computational servers, 24 SDRs synchronized at the symbol level, and a total of 64 antennas (see Figure 1). It provides an ideal environment to conduct 5G sub-6GHz radio experiments and, thereupon, in this experiment, it is used to allocate all the required radio components of a 5G Network e.g. gNB, UEs, etc.

Figure 1: 5G-VINNI 5TONIC and ARENA TestBeds comparison

The experiment is still an on-going project with several short and long-term objectives. The short-term objectives are focused on testing both sites capabilities and checking the compatibility between the hardware resources located in both sites and the software platforms, and, on the other hand, the long-term objectives aim at achieving a 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) End-to-End (E2E) scenario with a virtualized Enhanced Packet Core (vEPC) allocated in the 5G-VINNI Spain facility site and one or various gNBs, as Physical Network Functions (PNFs), and User Equipments allocated in the ARENA laboratory. All the above-mentioned resources will be orquestrated from the 5G-VINNI Spain facility using Open Source MANO 7. Bellow, a summary of the main objectives of this experiment is shown:

  • Short-Term Objectives:
    • Stablish a VPN-GEANT-based connection between both sites.
    • Test srsLTE eNB and UE solutions over the ARENA infrastructure.
    • Test OAI eNB, gNB and UE solutions over the ARENA infrastructure.
    • Stablish communication between UEs located in both sites and study the connection capabilities and requirements.
  • Long-Term Objectives:
    • Develop a 5G non-standalone (NSA) intercontinental environment.
    • Orchestrate the whole E2E Network Slice environment with the 5G-VINNI Spanish site orchestrator (OSM SEVEN).
    • Use the resulting infrastructure to carry future experiments.
Figure 2: Delay study-graph between facilities

All the short-term objectives are almost completed with the exception of the GEANT dedicated connection but, in between, a VPN-based connection has been implemented with a stable delay. As it can be seen in Figure 2, the average delay between both sites is around 105ms which, as it has been tested, is below the required delay-threshold (250ms) to achieve a stable communication between the gNB and the vEPC of the OAI platform. Thereupon, although the latency requirements will not allow to generate uRLLC experiments, the resulting project will enable the exploration of mMTC and eMBB experiments over intercontinental slices and, besides, will open the doors to new and innovative test-cases related with the 5G NR.

Figure 3: Experiment final High-Level View.


This project represents a proof-of-concept of the great potential involved in the 5G technology. Although not already finished it demonstrates several 5G capabilities and opens the door to the creation of innovative intercontinental use-cases. It is the first approach in the 5G-VINNI project to stablish this type of connection and, therefore, it may be the first of multiple collaborations between both sites to develop experiments that result on a proof-of-concept of the potential of the 5G high-performance networks.

Article By

Adrián Gallego Sánchez
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

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