BARCELONA, Spain — Cisco kicked off Mobile World Congress with a handful of announcements including a new open virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) initiative, Open vRAN, for mobile networks.
It joins other existing open RAN groups such as the xRAN Foundation, a consortium formed in 2016 to develop and promote the virtualization of the RAN and the use of open standards. And in November 2017, Vodafone contributed its software-defined RAN project to the Telecom Infra Project (TIP). Vodafone and Intel lead the OpenRAN Group, which will develop RAN technologies based on General Purpose Processing Platforms (GPPP) and disaggregated software.
The new Cisco group has some of the same members as xRAN and OpenRAN, including Intel and Mavenir. Other vendors involved in Cisco’s Open vRAN initiative include Altiostar, Aricent, Phazr, Red Hat, and Tech Mahindra.
Open vRAN Carrier Involvement
India’s Reliance Jio is currently the only carrier involved in the Open vRAN group. When asked if any U.S. telecom operators are expected to join, Jonathan Davidson, SVP and GM of service provider networking at Cisco said, “I think they are very open to the disaggregated approach and moving to more cloud native ecosystems. I imagine they will get behind it.”
The goal of Open vRAN is to assemble an open and modular RAN architecture, based on General Purpose Processing Platforms (GPPP) and disaggregated software, that will support different use cases. It will develop this new architecture over the next few months.
While many functions of a mobile network are being virtualized, the radio access network is “one area that has been completely neglected,” said Reliance Jio’s Tareq Amin, SVP, technology development and automation, at a press and analyst reception on Sunday night. “What disruption has happened in RAN? Nothing whatsoever.”
Cisco aims to make this infrastructure layer more open by partnering with software vendors and carriers, Davidson said. “We don’t have any of our own radio assets, but we have the other 5G assets,” he added. “The comprehensive nature of customers who have already signed up to try this initiative, as well as the number of people building software to transform the RAN gives us a unique perspective.”
5G Now Portfolio
Also on Sunday, Cisco launched a 5G Now portfolio for service providers with several 5G networking components. It includes helping service providers manage multi-cloud workloads, real-time telemetry for automation, mobile virtualized packet core, and 5G security architecture.