The telecommunications landscape is undergoing a swift transformation, with the emergence of 5G technology heralding a profound shift in how we connect and communicate. At the heart of the 5G revolution lies the User Plane Function (UPF), a crucial element responsible for delivering rapid data speeds, minimal latency, and enhanced network performance. To unlock the full potential of 5G, optimizing and expediting various network functions, including the User Plane Function (UPF), is imperative. SmartNIC offload solutions are emerging as potent tools to realize this objective.

Understanding the 5G Core User Plane Function (UPF)

The 5G Core User Plane Function, commonly known as UPF, is a critical component of 5G networks responsible for handling the user data traffic. Unlike its predecessors, 5G requires faster data transmission and lower latency to support a wide range of applications, from augmented reality to autonomous vehicles. The UPF is tasked with efficiently routing, forwarding, and optimizing this data traffic. The UPF directs data packets between the user equipment (UE) and the external data networks, such as the internet or private corporate networks, ensuring that data is efficiently transmitted to its destination. The UPF handles packet forwarding, traffic shaping, quality of service (QoS) management, and more.

SmartNIC Offload Solution for 5G UPF

Smart Network Interface Cards (SmartNICs) are dedicated hardware components designed to accelerate network performance and offload specific networking tasks from the CPU. They have emerged as a transformative force, enabling the full harnessing of UPF’s capabilities.

SmartNICs can offload and accelerate packet processing tasks such as packet classification, load balancing, and encryption/decryption. This reduces the CPU overhead, ensuring that the UPF can handle high packet throughput without a significant impact on server performance. SmartNICs often include advanced monitoring capabilities, allowing network operators to gather real-time telemetry data and perform deep packet inspection. This data can be invaluable for troubleshooting network issues and optimizing performance.

Implementing SmartNIC offload solutions for the 5G UPF provides several major benefits:

  • Lower Latency:
    By offloading processing tasks and accelerating packet forwarding, SmartNICs help reduce latency, enabling applications like real-time gaming and autonomous vehicles to function seamlessly.
  • Improved Efficiency:
    SmartNICs enhance network efficiency by optimizing data traffic, reducing CPU usage, and minimizing power consumption. This results in cost savings for operators and improved performance for users.
  • Enhanced Security:
    With built-in security features, SmartNICs bolster the overall security posture of the 5G network, protecting against threats and vulnerabilities, and ensuring that sensitive information remains protected in transit.
  • Flexibility and Scalability:
    SmartNICs are highly programmable and can adapt to changing network requirements, making them a future-proof investment for network operators.


SmartNIC offload solutions are poised to play a crucial role in enhancing the User Plane Function (UPF) of 5G networks by improving performance, scalability, and security while reducing operational costs. As the 5G ecosystem evolves, SmartNICs will remain a key technology for network operators and service providers looking to deliver the full potential of 5G connectivity to their customers.

Lanner and Napatech have joined forces to address these challenges through the integration of Napatech's SmartNIC-driven solutions for 5G User Plane Function (UPF) offload and high-speed data capture into Lanner's NCA-5520 and NCA-5540 1U network appliances. These appliances are specifically optimized for deployment in remote locations, including edge data centers, where space and power resources are limited. These integrated solutions provide an ideal platform for hosting mobile packet core and enterprise security software in scenarios that require maximum throughput, capacity, density and/or energy efficiency.

Feature Products


Security Gateway Appliance for Network Traffic Management and Virtualized Network Security

CPU 2nd Gen Intel® Xeon® Processor Scalable Family (Cascade Lake)
Chipset Intel® C621/626

Read more


High-performance Platform With Intel® Xeon® Processor Scalable Family (Sapphire Rapids-SP) & Emmisburg PCH

CPU Intel® Xeon® Processor Scalable Family (Sapphire Rapids-SP)
Chipset Intel® Emmisburg PCH

Read more