ONF works on an open source evolved packet core

SANTA CLARA, California — The original 3GPP evolved packet core was not CUPS compliant, said Guru Parulkar, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). Control User Plane Separation (CUPS) of evolved packet core (EPC) nodes provides for the separation of functionality in the S-gateway, P-gateway and MME.

The ONF has a project that is working on an open source, CUPS-compliant EPC. This project is called Open Mobile Evolved Core (OMEC). And, that’s about enough acronyms for one news story.

Simply speaking, mobile networks can be divided into the core network and the radio access network. While there is innovation happening to virtualize the radio access network, the work being done with a CUPS-compliant EPC relates to the core network.

“This is $10-billion-dollar-plus industry,” said Parulkar. “That packet core has gotten more software-ized with VMs and put in data centers. That’s been a trend over the last five years. But it’s been all proprietary and closed source. We, with the help of Intel, have an open source version that’s CUPS compliant.”

RELATED: Industry Voices — Blaber: Vendors such as Cisco and Intel become pivotal in 5G's core network transformation

OMEC is actually an evolution of the ONF’s software project that used to be called mobile-central office re-architected as a data center (M-CORD). Intel contributed its EPC to the OMEC project, and both Sprint and T-Mobile Poland are working with Intel to take the open source EPC to field trials this year.

Asked why in the world a semiconductor company such as Intel would have an EPC, Parulkar re-iterated: “EPC is a multi-billion-dollar business.”

He also said that OMEC sets up mobile networks better for 5G. “If you already have an open source foundation, you can evolve it to become the next-gen for 5G,” he said. “In the LTE world, proprietary things came seven years ago, and open source is coming now. But in 5G, open source and proprietary may come next to each other.”