Cellcom, the Wisconsin-based regional carrier owned by Nsight, plans to deploy the virtualized radio access network (vRAN/O-RAN) solution from U.S.-based Parallel Wireless to help expand its existing 4G network coverage and prepare the way for the launch of 5G services.
Parallel Wireless develops small-cell services for cellular network provisioning and aims to reduce the cost and complexity involved in the deployment of cellular networks to levels currently associated with enterprise WiFi. It claims that its small cell-based vRAN solution suits rural and remote requirements better than more conventional network approaches, as it provides low-cost coverage and efficient spectrum management.
This aim certainly seems to have appealed to Cellcom, which was seeking a cost-effective and flexible solution for efficient 4G coverage across urban service areas and a large rural footprint. Steve Libbey, VP of sales at Parallel Wireless, said in a release that Cellcom’s new, next-generation network “will allow their rural and urban customers to experience new best-of-breed services over both 4G and, in the future, 5G.”
Cellcom is already looking ahead to 5G, and recently partnered with Ericsson to host a 5G demonstration in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Mark Naze, CEO of Cellcom, said at the time that the carrier is “building the path to 5G now, deploying 5G-ready radios and installing fiber to carry the increased data traffic.” The carrier also acquired spectrum in the 600 MHz band during the FCC incentive auction in 2017, and is understood to be participating in the current auction of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28 GHz band.
Eugina Jordan, VP of marketing at Parallel Wireless, explained that the vendor’s software is in the abstraction and interoperability layer of the network, and can thus help interoperate with other RANs. “What we are enabling with 5G is the disaggregation of hardware and software,” Jordan said, “so Cellcom (and other customers) can pick any RAN ‘box’.”
In the U.S., Parallel Wireless is mostly working with Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators that are part of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA). Jordan noted that these regional carriers require a fully virtualized solution to keep network operational costs down. At the same time, the vendor is working with a Tier 1 U.S. carrier on densifying a very large city as it prepares for 5G.
In other markets, publicly announced customers include Telefónica in Latin America and Vodafone in India. “We are deploying in more countries with these operators, and will be making announcements on more locations at Mobile World Congress,” Jordan said. Other announced customers include Telesol 4G in Ghana, Intelsat in Ghana, MTN throughout Africa, Optus in Australia, and BT/EE in the UK.
Parallel Wireless has also been selected as a leading candidate for the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project’s (TIP) OpenRAN project group, together with Mavenir and Altiostar. Telefónica and Vodafone are also are part of the OpenRAN project group, which was created to find a way for operators to migrate to general purpose processing platforms (GPPP) with disaggregated software and reduce the cost of building mobile networks.