A P4-based 5G User Plane Function

Robert Macdavid, Carmelo Cascone, Pingping Lin, Badhrinath Padmanabhan, Ajay Thakur, Larry Peterson, Jennifer Rexford, Oguz Sunay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

28 Scopus citations


The demands on mobile networks are constantly evolving, but designing and integrating new high-speed packet processing remains a challenge due to the complexity of requirements and opacity of protocol specifications. 5G data planes should be implemented in programmable hardware for both speed and flexibility, and extending or replacing these data planes should be painless. In this paper we implement the 5G data plane using two P4 programs: one that acts as a open-source model data plane to simplify the interface with the control plane, and one to run efficiently on hardware switches to minimize latency and maximize bandwidth. The model data plane enables testing changes made to the control plane before integrating with a performant data plane, and vice versa. The hardware data plane implements the fast path for device traffic, and makes use of microservices to implement functions that highspeed switch hardware cannot do. Our data plane implementation is currently in limited deployment on three university campuses where it is enabling new research on mobile networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSOSR 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 ACM SIGCOMM Symposium on SDN Research
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781450390842
StatePublished - Oct 11 2021
Event2021 ACM SIGCOMM Symposium on SDN Research, SOSR 2021 - Virtual, Online, United States
Duration: Sep 20 2021Sep 21 2021

Publication series

NameSOSR 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 ACM SIGCOMM Symposium on SDN Research


Conference2021 ACM SIGCOMM Symposium on SDN Research, SOSR 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Online

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Software


  • 5G
  • Mobile networking
  • P4
  • Programmable dataplanes


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