Several members of the Telecom Infra Project’s (TIP) virtual RAN (vRAN) group have created a vRAN reference solution that makes it possible for cable networks to deliver 4G LTE services over their existing networks. The group worked closely with CableLabs, a non-profit research association funded by cable operators, on the reference design.
The vRAN reference design relies on a functional split known as 3GPP Option 7-x and includes advanced features such as fronthaul protocols. Aricent’s LTE RAN software framework is part of the solution and the company will act as the software integrator. The design also incorporates Phluido’s virtualized Layer 1 LTE implementation and Benetel’s remote radio unit (RRU). It will run over a cable DOCSIS network. Aricent said that because of the way the reference solution is designed it will be able to resolve DOCSIS-related problems such as jitter, latency, and limited capacity.
According to Munish Chhabra, vice president and head of software frameworks service line at Aricent, cable operators that want to provide 4G LTE or even 5G services can use their existing DOCSIS network with this reference design and create a fronthaul connection. Chhabra defines fronthaul as the connection between the radio unit and the cloud because in this scenario the entire Layer 1, Layer 2, and Layer 3 of the network has been moved to a virtual cloud. “The only thing left is the residential radio unit. The radio unit now communicates with everything in the cloud where Layer 1, 2, and 3 are running,” he said.
Chhabra said that many cable operators are interested in providing wireless services to their residential broadband customers and this vRAN design will make that possible. He added that CableLabs and its members are behind the solution because it enables them to capture new revenue streams.
Cable’s Wireless History
This isn’t the first time the cable industry has contemplated delivering wireless services to its customers. Comcast unveiled its Xfinity Wireless service in April 2017. That service uses Verizon’s wireless network instead of Comcast’s cable network. At the end of the second quarter, Xfinity Wireless had 781,000 customers. And in June, Charter Communications launched Spectrum Mobile, which also runs on Verizon’s network.
Both Comcast and Charter have to pay Verizon for use of its network. If those companies decided to instead use this virtualized LTE RAN solution they would be able to capture a bigger portion of the revenue.