Network in A Box with Open Source EPC/HSS and Zero Touch Control (2021)

By Joerg Ahrweiler, Hany Heikal & Hossam Hmimy, Charter Communications

The Network In A Box (NIB) definition started with a 4G network that is operating the core network and base-station in a single box that is portable and self-organizing, which provides seamless connectivity to a group of mobile users, offering services such as internet connectivity and closed group communication (Push To Talk/Video/Text). The NIB setup expands cellular network coverage in various environments and different use cases, such as terrestrial disaster relief, private networks in-flight, at sea and in other scenarios and environments where an ad-hoc cellular network is required. The NIB concept is a miniature evolution of the traditional cell on the wheel (COW) concept that has been widely used for cellular mobile voice communication.

In this paper, the NIB cellular network architecture in a CBRS (Citizen Broadband Radio System) environment is described, and the background of combining an ‘off the shelf’ 4G eNB with a software based open-source core network and a ‘Zero Touch’ system bring-up and control SW implementation will be presented. Finally, the testbed implementation of the 4G core network and eNB will be installed in a bare-metal environment with MEC (Mobile Edge Compute) demonstration application environment. The paper will conclude with lessons learned, and outlook to migrate to a 5G and container-based NIB.

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