BARCELONA, Spain — Verizon is taking some big strides toward virtualizing the radio access network (RAN). The operator announced today that it has teamed with Intel and Nokia to develop a virtualized RAN (vRAN) architecture.
The architecture will be based upon Verizon’s vRAN 1.0 that was used in a trial in Oklahoma City. For that trial, Nokia built the cloud RAN (cRAN) software for Verizon’s commercial cloud infrastructure using COTS hardware. The trial also used Nokia’s AirScale cloud server, which operated like a virtual base station running on Verizon’s cloud platform connected via Ethernet backhaul. The trial also included Intel’s Xeon processors.
Verizon said that this architecture allowed it to deploy both real-time and non-real-time functions deeper in the network.
The companies will now work on vRAN 2.0, which Verizon said will allow it to increase the number of users per cell and lower its capex and opex costs. In an interview with Nicki Palmer, chief network officer at Verizon, she said that virtualizing the RAN will have some cost-benefits to the company.
But she added that vRAN is different from the virtualization of the network core, where there is a cost-benefit, but vRAN also allows operators to launch new services more quickly. “There is a cost-benefit, but it is more about speed to market,” she said.
Nokia touted the company’s involvement in the project, noting that by putting the RAN in the cloud, operators can quickly increase capacity in the baseband and create scalability for both 4G and 5G networks. “Virtualization is all about flexibility,” said Marc Rouanne, president of mobile networks at Nokia.
vRAN is Everywhere
In November, Vodafone contributed its software-defined RAN project to the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and agreed to join Intel and lead the OpenRAN Group. The goal of OpenRAN is to develop RAN technologies based on General Purpose Processing Platforms (GPPP) and disaggregated software.
All these developments around vRAN are good for the industry, said Igal Elbaz, SVP of wireless network architecture and design at AT&T. In an interview, Elbaz said that AT&T is a proponent of open networks and is considering vRAN. “We should look at the openness of the radio network. The whole ecosystem is thinking about this,” he said.