Wireless base station functions rely on a central unit that processes data and distributed units that send and receive radio waves. NEC’s software runs on Intel processors that function as the central unit. The central unit, in turn, controls multiple distributed units, making it possible to flexibly control radio wave output according to data volumes.
NEC’s NFV Cloud RAN can transfer selected data processing functions from the central unit to distributed units. And Ethernet can be used as the interface between the central unit and the distributed units instead of the conventional Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI), says NEC.
As a result, the volume of data exchanged between the central unit and distributed units can be reduced to less than one-tenth, compared to existing C-RAN architecture, according to NEC.
A big part of new 5G topologies is the creation of multiple hierarchies. Wireless networks are being transformed from flat architectures with all traffic going back to the core – to distributed architectures with more capabilities at the edge.
Cloud RAN is part of this transformation to distributed architectures. Japan (where NEC is headquartered) and South Korea have an advantage when it comes to Cloud RAN. Seoul and Tokyo are already supported with RANs that are connected by dark fiber. So in these cities, operators can more quickly leverage NFV to distribute functions.
In its announcement today, NEC says even if the central unit and distributed units are connected via lower capacity networks, its NFV cloud RAN system “will enable communications carriers to develop the high performance networks they need for 5G.”
Earlier this year, the Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo said it was virtualizing its network and selected NEC for certain deployments, including a virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) and a virtual network function manager.