China Unicom is scouting sites in mainland China to test 5G technology using a network architecture that incorporates Cavium silicon-based white boxes in Mobile Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (M-CORD) racks.
M-CORD is an open source project with a goal of transitioning the central office to general purpose hardware that runs open source software (disaggregating the hardware from the software).
According to Cavium, China Unicom will use M-CORD racks with Cavium’s ThunderX ARM-based data center COTS servers and white box switches outfitted with Cavium’s XPliant programmable software-defined networking (SDN) Ethernet switches. In addition, the mobile infrastructure elements will be disaggregated from the edge of the radio access network (RAN) to the mobile core allowing for a full cloud-RAN (C-RAN) deployment.
Raj Singh, vice president and general manager of Cavium’s Network & Communications Group, said that by using this type of “homogenous” network architecture, China Unicom will be able to rapidly deploy 5G.
MEC Use Cases
China Unicom’s 5G trials will test different uses cases that may benefit from using M-CORD. One use case involves multi-access edge computing (MEC), which Cavium and China Unicom are demonstrating this week at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai trade show.
MEC, which is sometimes described as having tiny data centers that live on the edge of the network, is being looked at closely by mobile operators for low-latency 5G use cases like streaming video and augmented reality. Although 5G already promises lower latency, edge computing will still be useful as it can further reduce latency that may be introduced by the backhaul.
China Unicom, Cavium Partnership
This isn’t the first time China Unicom and Cavium have worked together. Last December the two firms said they were developing virtual baseband units (vBBUs) for mobile networks in preparation for 5G.
The two companies also said they were working on a new fronthaul technology to connect the cellular base station to the remote radio heads at the top of the tower.