Vodafone worked with Nokia to test the vendor’s cloud-based radio access network (RAN) technology to see how it will stack up in the transition from 4G to 5G. The trial occurred at Vodafone’s testing facility in Italy.
Vodafone used Nokia’s AirScale Cloud RAN running on its AirFrame network functions virtualization (NFV) infrastructure. By combining cloud RAN with NFV, Vodafone was able to split baseband processing functionality between real-time and non-real-time functions allowing for time-critical functions to be performed close to the edge of the network.
Non-time critical functions were then centralized and virtualized in the NFV infrastructure platform at the end of the RAN. Ethernet-based fronthaul was used to provide connectivity to the virtualized functions.
The trial looked at peak data rates as well as download and upload speeds during a variety of different scenarios on the macro network using high-powered macrocells. According to Vodafone, the test demonstrated that a cloud RAN-based architecture can provide the same level of service as a conventional LTE network. In addition, the cloud RAN met the operator’s criteria for throughput, capacity, and resiliency while also providing additional flexibility and scalability.
“Working with Nokia on this trial we have seen how the application of cloud RAN architecture can help the network react to changing demands quickly. It speeds up the delivery of services and will help with the transition to 5G,” said Santiago Tenorio, head of networks, Vodafone Group, in a statement.
One big differentiator of the 5G network is that it will be based upon a distributed architecture that has more capabilities at the edge versus the flat architecture of today’s mobile networks that has all the traffic going back to the core network.
Of course, Nokia isn’t the only vendor with an eye on cloud-RAN. NEC announced in August that it was developing an NFV cloud RAN product. Likewise, in February, Ericsson announced a C-RAN product that it’s calling Elastic RAN.