Cavium is working with China Unicom to develop virtual baseband units (vBBUs) for mobile networks in preparation for 5G. The collaboration is part of both companies’ involvement in the Central Office Re-Architected as a Data Center (CORD).
Virtual BBUs sit in the central office and run the layer 2/layer 3 stack. With China Unicom, Cavium plans to focus on commercializing vBBUs, using general purpose hardware, based on Cavium’s ThunderX ARMv8 server.
“The trend of vBBUs in disaggregated radio networks requires fast switching between virtual machines, smart management of incoming and outgoing traffic, and high performance Crypto,” said Raj Singh, general manager of Cavium’s Wireless Broadband Group, in an email to SDxCentral. “These are all functions that the ThunderX SoC is significantly better at than x86 architecture.”
China Unicom and Cavium say they will also work together on new fronthaul technology. Fronthaul is the interface between the cellular base station’s processing elements (namely the BBU) and the remote radio heads (RRHs), according to the fronthaul company EBlink. “Historically, coaxial cables were used to connect the base station to the radio antennas located at the top of the tower or building,” per EBlink.
In addition to the BBU and fronthaul work, Cavium has joined the China Unicom CORD Industry Alliance —a group that China Unicom set up to use the open source CORD project for a “real-life trial,” according to Singh.