Tag Archives: Non-IP

NB-IoT NIDD Basics

NB-IoT introduces support for NIDD – Non-IP Data Delivery (NIDD) which is one of the cool features of NB-IoT that’s gaining more widespread adoption.

Let’s take a deep dive into NIDD.

The case against IP for IoT

In the over 40 years since IP was standardized, we’ve shoehorned many things onto IP, but IP was never designed or optimized for low power, low throughput applications.

For the battery life of an IoT device to be measured in years, it has to be very selective about what power hungry operations it does. Transmitting data over the air is one of the most power-intensive operations an IoT device can perform, so we need to do everything we can to limit how much data is sent, and how frequently.

Use Case – NB-IoT Tap

Let’s imagine we’re launching an IoT tap that transmits information about water used, as part of our revolutionary new “Water as a Service” model (WaaS) which removes the capex for residents building their own water treatment plant in their homes, and instead allows dynamic scaling of waterloads as they move to our new opex model.

If I turn on the tap and use 12L of water, when I turn off the tap, our IoT tap encodes the usage onto a single byte and sends the usage information to our rain-cloud service provider.

So we’re not constantly changing the batteries in our taps, we need to send this one byte of data as efficiently as possible, so as to maximize the battery life.

If we were to transport our data on TCP, well we’d need a 3 way handshake and several messages just to transmit the data we want to send.

Let’s see how our one byte of data would look if we transported it on TCP.

That sliver of blue in the diagram is our usage component, the rest is overhead used to get it there. Seems wasteful huh?

Sure, TCP isn’t great for this you say, you should use UDP! But even if we moved away from TCP to UDP, we’ve still got the IPv4 header and the UDP header wasting 28 bytes.

For efficiency’s sake (To keep our batteries lasting as long as possible) we want to send as few messages as possible, and where we do have to send messages, keep them very short, so IP is not a great fit here.

Enter NIDD – Non-IP Data Delivery.

Through NIDD we can just send the single hex byte, only be charged for the single hex byte, and only stay transmitting long enough to send this single byte of hex (Plus the NBIoT overheads / headers).

Compared to UDP transport, NIDD provides us a reduction of 28 bytes of overhead for each message, or a 96% reduction in message size, which translates to real power savings for our IoT device.

In summary – the more sending your device has to do, the more battery it consumes.
So in a scenario where you’re trying to maximize power efficiency to keep your batter powered device running as long as possible, needing to transmit 28 bytes of wasted data to transport 1 byte of usable data, is a real waste.

Delivering the Payload

NIDD traffic is transported as raw hex data end to end, this means for our 1 byte of water usage data, the device would just send the hex value to be transferred and it’d pop out the other end.

To support this we introduce a new network element called the SCEFService Capability Exposure Function.

From a developer’s perspective, the SCEF is the gateway to our IoT devices. Through the RESTful API on the SCEF (T8 API), we can send and receive raw hex data to any of our IoT devices.

When one of our Water-as-a-Service Taps sends usage data as a hex byte, it’s the software talking on the T8 API to the SCEF that receives this data.

Data of course needs to be addressed, so we know where it’s coming from / going to, and T8 handles this, as well as message reliability, etc, etc.

This is a telco blog, so we should probably cover the MME connection, the MME talks via Diameter to the SCEF. In our next post we’ll go into these signaling flows in more detail.

If you’re wondering what the status of Open Source SCEF implementations are, then you may have already guessed I’m working on one!

Hopefully by now you’ve got a bit of an idea of how NIDD works in NB-IoT, and in our next posts we’ll dig deeper into the flows and look at some PCAPs together.

5Gethernet? – Transporting Non-IP data in 5G

I wrote not too long ago about how LTE access is not liked WiFi, after a lot of confusion amongst new Open5Gs users coming to LTE for the first time and expecting it to act like a Layer 2 network.

But 5G brings a new feature that changes that;

PDU Session Type: The type of PDU Session which can be IPv4, IPv6, IPv4v6, Ethernet or Unstructured

ETSI TS 123 501 – System Architecture for the 5G System

No longer are we limited to just IP transport, meaning at long last I can transport my Token Ring traffic over 5G, or in reality, customers can extend Layer 2 networks (Ethernet) over 3GPP technologies, without resorting to overlay networking, and much more importantly, fixed line networks, typically run at Layer 2, can leverage the 5G core architecture.

How does this work?

With TFTs and the N6 interfaces relying on the 5 value tuple with IPs/Ports/Protocol #s to make decisions, transporting Ethernet or Non-IP Data over 5G networks presents a problem.

But with fixed (aka Wireline) networks being able to leverage the 5G core (“Wireline Convergence”), we need a mechanism to handle Ethernet.

For starters in the PDU Session Establishment Request the UE indicates which PDN types, historically this was IPv4/6, but now if supported by the UE, Ethernet or Unstructured are available as PDU types.

We’ll focus on Ethernet as that’s the most defined so far,

Once an Ethernet PDU session has been setup, the N6 interface looks a bit different, for starters how does it know where, or how, to route unstructured traffic?

As far as 3GPP is concerned, that’s your problem:

Regardless of addressing scheme used from the UPF to the DN, the UPF shall be able to map the address used between the UPF and the DN to the PDU Session. Support of Unstructured PDU Session type

In short, the UPF will need to be able to make the routing decisions to support this, and that’s up to the implementer of the UPF.

In the Ethernet scenario, the UPF would need to learn the MAC addresses behind the UE, handle ARP and use this to determine which traffic to send to which UE, encapsulate it into trusty old GTP, fill in the correct TEID and then send it to the gNodeB serving that user (if they are indeed on a RAN not a fixed network).

So where does this leave QoS? Without IPs to apply with TFTs and Packet Filter Sets to, how is this handled? In short, it’s not – Only the default QoS rule exist for a PDU Session of Type Unstructured. The QoS control for Unstructured PDUs is performed at the PDU Session level, meaning you can set the QFI when the PDU session is set up, but not based on traffic through that bearer.

Does this mean 5G RAN can transport Ethernet?

Well, it remains to be seen.

The specifications don’t cover if this is just for wireline scenarios or if it can be used on RAN.

The 5G PDU Creation signaling has a field to indicate if the traffic is Ethernet, but to work over a RAN we would need UE support as well as support on the Core.

And for E-UTRAN?

For the foreseeable future we’re going to be relying on LTE/E-UTRAN as well as 5G. So if you’re mobile with a non-IP PDU, and you enter an area only served by LTE, what happens?

PDU Session types “Ethernet” and “Unstructured” are transferred to EPC as “non-IP” PDN type (when supported by UE and network).

It is assumed that if a UE supports Ethernet PDU Session type and/or Unstructured PDU Session type in 5GS it will also support non-IP PDN type in EPS.

5.17.2 Interworking with EPC

If you were not aware of support in the EPC for Non-IP PDNs, I don’t blame you – So far support the CIoT EPS optimizations were initially for Non-IP PDN type has been for NB-IoT to supporting Non-IP Data Delivery (NIDD) for lightweight LwM2M traffic.

So why is this? Well, it may have to do with WO 2017/032399 Al which is a patent held by Ericsson, regarding “COMMUNICATION OF NON-IP DATA OVER PACKET DATA NETWORKS” which may be restricting wide scale deployment of this,