Sunnyvale, California-based Netsia is working on an LTE virtual radio access network (vRAN) platform that it says can carve up an operator’s RAN network allowing it to dedicate radio resources to different tasks. For example, an operator could dedicate a portion of the RAN to public safety or to delivering a video service.
For a new entrant, Netsia is attracting the attention of some important service providers. The company said it showed Telefonica a prototype of its product at Mobile World Congress Americas in September in San Francisco and is now integrating ProGRAN, which is the name for its programmable software-defined network (SDN)-based RAN framework, into the operator’s virtualization project at its lab in Madrid, Spain.
The two companies are now discussing the possibility of creating a demo together that they will debut at Mobile World Congress in February 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.
According to Oguz Oktay, VP of wireless solutions at Netsia, one scenario that Telefonica was particularly interested in was creating a private LTE network for a hospital that will use network slicing. This technology will allow Telefonica to partition spectrum just for this private LTE network and also provide a service level guarantee for certain services. “We believe we are the only company, to my knowledge, that has gone beyond powerpoint presentations to do this,” Oktay said in an interview with SDxCentral.
He explained that the company’s ProGRAN can turn an RAN into an SDN platform and then use configuration commands in the SDN controller to program the base station. This allows an operator to initiate, edit, and terminate different RAN slices in real-time.
Oguz Sunay, the company’s project mentor, inventor of ProgRAN and chief architect for M-CORD, said that he likes to describe this as virtualizing spectrum. “Just like the cloud architecture, you can dedicate a portion to a use case,” he said.
Besides working with Telefonica, Netsia said it is engaged with a number of service providers around the globe, including a Tier 1 operator in North America. “We hope that many service providers will come into this opportunity and make it collectively a great success,” said Ayse Erinc, business strategy officer at Netsia.
Not Just 5G
Although many operators and vendors tend to discuss network slicing as a 5G capability, Sunay said it is actually possible to do it today using an LTE network even one that isn’t using SDN or network functions virtualization (NFV). “In a few weeks we are deploying sliceable radios in a non-virtualized network that is LTE-A,” he said, adding that this is a live trial in a commercial environment.
Sunay said the company is implementing this by modifying the protocol stack inside a base station so that it can be programmed. However, he added that the company is primarily working with small cell vendors. He said that to do this in the core part of a commercial network, they would need the assistance of the base station vendor. And most of those vendors are not willing to work with them. “They don’t want new vendors, big or small, coming into their field so they are using their power to stop us.”