Lattice Blog


The Answer to Security and Synchronization for 5G+ Network Infrastructure

The Answer to Security and Synchronization for 5G+ Network Infrastructure
Posted 02/27/2023 by Dr. Hossam Fattah and Mamta Gupta, Lattice Semiconductor

Posted in

Today, we are seeing 5G Open Radio Access Network (ORAN) change the landscape of cellular and mobile networks. Specifically, the opening, disaggregation, and virtualization of the RAN architecture is creating a paradigm shift in the mobile network infrastructure. Many functions of the traditional RAN network are being de-coupled between the hardware and software components. This decoupling of functions is bringing about flexibility and innovation to the network deployments as hardware and software components can be mixed and matched from different vendors.

However, while this increased flexibility and innovation is exciting, it also causes certain challenges. Specifically, for disaggregated systems to communicate to provide the end-to-end RAN functionality, a high precision timing and synchronization source is required as the openness and disaggregation increases potential vulnerability and the likelihood of being an attack target. As a result, there is a growing need for tightly integrated timing and security solutions for protecting critical network functions.

To better secure the synchronization, the Lattice ORAN™ v 1.1 solution stack enables 5G ORAN deployment by providing a tight, secure, and flexible synchronization solution. This new capability builds on the stack’s existing control data security and low power hardware acceleration features first introduced in 2022 to enhance the stack’s ability to accelerate and secure current and next-gen customer applications.

Enabling ORAN Deployment

Synchronization for 5G ORAN

Ensuring the three major components – the remote radio unit (RU), distributed unit (DU), and central unit (CU) – are precisely synchronized in 5G ORAN networks is critical to avoid data packet loss and network interruptions when communicating between them. If synchronization is off, even by just a few nanoseconds, it can result in decreased network performance, including dropped calls and poor-quality connection, with the risk of the entire network coming down. All critical information within the 5G ORAN network relies on synchronization and, without it, the network infrastructure (and, in the end, the end-user experience) is greatly impacted.

To help mitigate such synchronization issues, the latest update to the Lattice ORAN supports the IEEE 1588 standard and ITU profiles that synchronize clocks throughout a distributed system with integrated mutual authentication. IEEE 1588 provides a single source of timing to DUs and acts as an alternative to using GPS clocks on endpoint devices, which may not have easy access to radios or satellite signals. As a packet-based, bidirectional communications protocol, IEEE 1588 precisely synchronizes distributed clocks in Ethernet and IP-based networks with nanosecond accuracy.

Addressing Energy Consumption Challenges

The telecommunications industry and 5G networks in particular carry an incredible amount of data. Advanced features often require more energy consumption, making power budget an added concern when implementing the bandwidth-intensive applications that are enabled by 5G. So, the need for hardware acceleration to implement complex functions and use cases across the networks is only growing.

With 5G networks in particular, low-power FPGAs are a great option as they are ideal for applications that are small cell or on a private network and can be utilized at the Edge or on-site directly, alongside the lowering operational expenditure.

Network Secure Synchronization Solution in Lattice ORAN Soluiton Stack 1.1

The Lattice ORAN v 1.1 solution stack enhances and utilizes the design and interface compliant with IEEE 1588 and ITU profiles for 1588 PTP Class C, achieving frequency, phase, and timing synchronization between the RU, DU, and CU running on a Lattice FPGA. It also supports different configurations of IEEE 1588, such as Ordinary Clock (OC), Boundary Clock (BC), and Transparent Clock (TC), in addition to different ITU profiles for wireless networking such as ITU G8265.1, ITU G8275.1, and ITU G8275.2. Most importantly, in this IEEE 1588 implementation, Lattice ORAN is protected by integrated mutual authentication, which is used to implement secure synchronization.

To learn more about how the Lattice ORAN solution stack can accelerate 5G deployment and support current and next-gen telecommunications applications, reach out to speak with our team.