A 5G NTN Emulation Platform for VNF Orchestration: Design, Development, and Evaluation
The integration of Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) with 5G represents a monumental leap in wireless network capabilities, significantly enhancing capacity, range, and reliability. This fusion fosters technological innovation and global connectivity. Crucial to this development is the softwarization of 5G networks through Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) within the OpenRAN paradigm, which disaggregates radio access networks into Central and Distributed Units (CU and DU). This approach accelerates deployment and facilitates upgrades. However, incorporating edge computing in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites into this virtualized infrastructure presents management complexities, particularly in the interaction and resource sharing among VNFs, including satellite components. The absence of advanced emulators capable of accurately simulating these dynamics is a significant hurdle. To address this, this study introduces a groundbreaking emulation framework based on the Open Air Interface platform, tailored to reflect OpenRAN's disaggregated network architecture. This framework precisely emulates the functional behavior of 5G-NTN systems and, with the integration of Kubernetes, enhances VNF lifecycle management, boosting efficiency in hybrid networks. The framework's efficacy in VNF deployment and resource optimization is validated by extensive performance metrics, proving its vital role in emulating 5G-NTN systems. This innovation lays the groundwork for future research in efficient resource management within complex network ecosystems, offering a vital tool for exploring diverse VNF deployment scenarios and enabling networks to adapt dynamically to advanced wireless communication demands.