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5G Network

A 5G network is central in 5G++ FlexiCell. The idea is to operate a spatially small network only where it can be profitably deployed (return-on-investment).

A single base station, the FlexiCell, is often sufficient for this purpose. In addition to the radio technology (base station), mobile communications require a core network that provides SIM card and access management (e.g., who is allowed to send/receive data) and quality of service monitoring. Each mobile network operator usually operates such a network only once for the whole of Germany. A core network is usually designed for millions of terminals, which is oversized for the needs of manufacturing SMEs, not only in terms of costs. In the 5G++ FlexiCell, this core network is streamlined and integrated at the base station with low latency. An entire 5G network thus fits into the form factor of a 19-inch rack with 8 height units. There is even already a handbag-sized prototype with just one port, Ethernet for network connection and power supply (Power over Ethernet). The FlexiCell supports any IP-based type of data transmission and services such as messaging, push-to-video, push-to-talk, voice-over-IP.

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A special feature is that several FlexiCells can automatically federate with each other in the form of an Internet-like mesh network. In mobility scenarios, for example, user connections can be passed from one cell to the next without interruption, so that communication always takes place via the cell with the best connection quality. This would not be possible with a classic 5G core network because there can only be exactly one core in a 5G network. The FlexiCell uses the system from the company Blackned. Using Mesh-Flow-Technology, Blackned is developing a kind of distributed 5G core that runs synchronized on all FlexiCells at the same time. In this way, each end device has, for example, only one identical IP address ("anchor") in all cores. This allows cells to be federated so that a failure or withdrawal of a FlexiCell is tolerated by updating network routes. The handover times between core networks are so short due to the passing IP address context that higher network layers such as TCP or UDP do not notice the change of the base station due to the principle.

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The basic system itself is a Linux-based Rack-Server with virtual machines (VMs) networked via a Software-Defined Network (SDN) that also integrates Mesh-Flow. All IP-based technologies that can be connected to the server can also be integrated into the network. This is already available for cable-based Ethernet, WLAN/WiFi, Bluetooth Low-Energy and LoRaWAN, and other technologies such as the Low-Power-Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) standard mioty, I/O-Link Wireless and Industrial Ethernet such as ProfiNET/ProfiSAFE are to follow. Of course, virtualization systems such as Docker or Kubernetes Edge-Computing functionalities can also be realized via additional VMs.

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