European Space Agency

VIBES - Implementation of VIrtualised Network Functions (VNFs) for Broadband Satellite Networks



The high-level project objective is to provide a tailored architectural and technological solution for performance optimization of end-to-end IP-based services, when a satellite component is present in the communication path. Target scenarios are compliant to upcoming 5G use-cases.

VIBeS project reviews the role of Performance Enhancing Proxy (PEP) agents, redesigned as a set of Network Virtual Functions, namely NFV-PEP. In this innovative perspective, the NFV-PEP is following a top-down orchestration approach to flexibly satisfy the requirements of each application, on a “slice” basis. The proposed approach allows to pursue the following technical objectives:

  • Rapid service innovation and then modifications through software-based deployment of functions, in order to satisfy possible evolving requirements;
  • Improving operational efficiency through process and procedure automation, even allowing the possibility to transfer a PEP context for the sake of mobility;
  • Greater flexibility on applying flow-specific rules, implementing methods to discriminate traffic by type, pattern, and performance requirements.

Project objectives will be verified through a Proof of Concept (PoC) real-time platform, reproducing a sub-set of significant converged 5G satellite-terrestrial scenarios:

  • Satellite backhauling for traditional Web browsing from LTE/5G mobile users;
  • Large-scale Web streaming services for fixed (i.e. ADSL) and mobile (i.e. LTE) users;
  • Distributed M2M communications.


The main challenge is to provide an evolved view of satellite role in current and future 5G scenarios, enabling flexibility and improved performance, though the joint exploitation of virtualization paradigms and recent Web technologies. This represents a very ambitious goal since satellite platforms were traditionally designed as stand-alone, not interoperable and application-driven systems. Challenges covers different areas:

  • architecture (i.e., distributed orchestration of NFV, SFC, pairing, hybrid network slicing);
  • performance (i.e., reduction of latency for interactive applications, efficient combined use of multiple links – offload, effective caching);
  • validation (implementation of a flexible and fully representative of the target 5G network/scenarios PoC testbed).


VIBeS aims to ride the 5G-related transformation to review the role of satellite in supporting the expansion of 5G services to vertical industries. 5G envisages business by controlling and customising needed resources, either satellite or terrestrial, through a central orchestration. The target NFV-PEP is compliant to this view. Thus, the PoC testbed gives the possibility to ESA Member State industries to validate solutions and products in the 5G framework enabling a satellite component. The developed NFV-PEP and the overall PoC testbed are expected to support the integration with terrestrial components endorsing satellite technology with documented performance.

In addition, the availability of a satellite-enabled 5G testbed can potentially open the way to standardization activities.

The resulting solution is expected to enable benefits provided by recent Web technology in the following areas:

  • Efficient exploitation of simultaneous links (Multi Path techniques such as evolutions of MP-TCP);
  • Support zero latency in 5G systems (i.e. caching, pre-fetching, QUIC);
  • Optimal utilization of available resources (i.e. offloading, TCP optimization through new rate-control mechanisms, namely Google BBR and TCP Wave);
  • An orchestrated mixing of fairness and priority management at flow or slice level (traffic classification and dynamic rules application);
  • Adaptive bitrate streaming (i.e. MPEG-DASH and WebRTC).


The NFV-PEP envisages a synergic combination of the container-based approach for virtualization and flexible computing and the SDN paradigm. The overall architecture is based on a distributed, large-scale deployment of clusters of containers, whose management and orchestration are delegated to a model-based configuration framework built on top of a multilayer hierarchy of SDN controllers. The dynamic establishment of network services is achieved by an orchestrator capable of deploying VNFs in shared hosting infrastructures and combining them with other services in order to meet application needs. SFC model is applied to manage and configure the logic order of VNF on the network path, defined by the operator using control plane mechanisms. Main Web advancements are included as VNFs.

All these functionalities are reproduced and in a PoC testbed, enabling performance assessment in the frame of evolved 5G services. 

System Architecture

VIBeS project addresses a system architecture where NFV-PEP agents are integrated in a converged satellite-terrestrial system. The figure below depicts the general deployment model tailored to reproduce target 5G services and architectures in a PoC testbed. 


VIBeS testbed can be split into three NFV Infrastructure Points of Presence (NFVI-PoP) with dedicated hardware (network, computing and storage resources).

The NFV-PEP-PoP hosts a chain of orchestrated VNFs to improve target services provision over satellite-integrated communication scenarios. This component is under control of a Satellite Virtual Service Operator (SVSO).

The Satellite Baseband Infrastructure-PoP provides the emulated physical satellite infrastructure for forward and return links. This component includes all the non-virtualized elements under the control of a Satellite Network Operator (SNO). 

The terrestrial network PoP is composed of three macro-blocks: (1) a vEPC for mobile access through 4G radio fronthaul; (2) a core network managing connections with public Internet or local IP services: (3) a re-configurable network sub-layer allowing flexible and reconfigurable PoC configuration.

In addition to the above NFVI, a WiFi access point is included with the primary scope to “simulate” a direct access to satellite access, through NFV-PEP, bypassing the EPC in accordance with requirements of a subset of use-cases.


The project duration is 24 months (KO March 14th 2018) plus 12 months of availability of the testbed at contractor premises. Three main not overlapping WP lines: WP1000 (Internet performance over satellite and Architecture), WP2000 (VNF-PEP testbed), WP3000 (Demonstration and results exploitation). Four milestones: Baseline Design Review (BDR, KO+6), Critical Design Review (CDR, KO+12), Preliminary Performance Review (PPR, KO+18), Final Review (FR, KO+24).

Current status

The project started on March 2018. WP1100 (Review, analysis and performance evaluations of current protocols) and WP1200 (5G-based use cases) are in progress while WP1300 (VNF-PEP specifications and architecture definition) is scheduled at KO+2 months.

Status date

Monday, January 21, 2019 - 14:20