AUSTIN, TEXAS — Virtualizing the RAN (vRAN) is an important step for mobile operators, and some are pursuing it more aggressively than others. However, with the flexible nature of the 5G network, it’s possible that mobile operators could combine vRAN with traditional RAN in their networks.
At the 5G North America event today, Karri Kouppamaki, vice president of radio network technology development and strategy for T-Mobile, said that T-Mobile is moving toward a vRAN architecture but that the 5G network doesn’t have to be uniform. For example, he said that operators could use vRAN for some types of use cases and traditional RAN for others. “We need to think about 5G networks differently,” he said. “We may find out that in certain use cases we do things differently. vRAN plays a role in that.”
T-Mobile hasn’t been very vocal about its plans to virtualize the RAN. At Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Spain, last February, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said that he thought virtualizing the RAN was a lofty goal and added that operators need to support the vendor community.
And Verizon has also said that it is working with Intel and Nokia to develop a vRAN architecture. At today’s event, Verizon Chief Network Officer Nicki Palmer said Verizon believes that architecturally, the whole network will eventually become software-enabled and that vRAN is a long-term goal for the company.
She added that Verizon wants “best in breed” of everything from baseband units to radios, and the only way to do that is to pursue this type of strategy. “It’s evolving, but we have to evolve with suppliers. We have to work in partnership with them,” Palmer said.