Indeed, the S1AP (known from E-UTRAN) and the NGAP are very similar protocols and when reading the 3GPP specs it is obvious that many message names are identical and the procedures fulfill the same purpose when looking at call scenarios.
However, the difference is visible in the details as one can see when looking at the figure below.
While the S1AP UE Context Release Complete message does not contain any additional information we find in the NGAP UE Context Release Complete the identity of the last serving 5G cell, represented by the NR-CGI, the last visited Tracking Area Identity (TAI) and a list with the IDs of the PDU sessions (E-RABs) that have been terminated when the UE context was released.
This additional information in very valuable for network troubleshooting, since in LTE (S1AP) only the ID (ECGI) of the initial serving cell or a new serving cell ID at inter-node handover was signaled. And if you wanted to know how many E-RABs have been terminated with a S1AP UE Context Release procedure it was necessary to look back into the full sequence of call-related S1AP messages starting with the messages for Initial Context Setup.
All in all, with 5G NGAP trace analysis and the life of RAN engineers becomes easier. Thank you, 3GPP!
|Comparision of S1AP and NGAP UE Context Release Complete Messages|