Displaying items by tag: RAN
Cisco and Rakuten have adopted the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network.
Cisco played a key role in the development and deployment of the cloud-native virtualized architecture which is currently being used by Rakuten Mobile. Cisco has said that its state-of-the-art highly-automated approach has gained great traction amongst some of the world’s leading telecom operators.
According to Jonathan Davidson, SVP and GM, Cisco Mass-Scale Infrastructure, telecom operators across the world have been investing “30 to 40 billion dollars a year in deploying radio access technology and we still have so many parts of the globe that do not have coverage or do not have decent coverage… This is something that can be transformed with this new approach that Rakuten Mobile has pioneered. You could definitely call it profound.”
Davidson has also predicted that it will be widely adopted in Japan. Adding that, “this is just the beginning. Now we need to get to 5G and we need to scale the infrastructure.”
Cisco has not only supplied them with the IP internet protocol (IP) routers which essentially transport traffic from Rakuten’s radio towers and the cloud radio access network (RAN) into the IP core, but the Telco is also providing them with management orchestration software.
Rakuten Mobile’s CTO, Tareq Amin, stated, “Cisco is playing a crucial role in stitching together the carious elements of our new network.”
“The design approach we mapped out with Cisco is enabling us to deliver high-value services at very affordable prices, enabling our customers to really benefit from our cloud innovation. Scaling of such orchestration function is a challenge,” he continued.
Davidson says that he expects Rakuten Mobile’s network to perform at a very high level due to its software-defined architecture which allows for the fine-tuning of its network in real-time.
“Any time you do something that has never been done before, there are going to be a lot of challenges that you have to uncover. It always come back to the team and making sure the team is aligned to a joint vision and a joint mission. Tareq is a phenomenal visionary who has got companies that have traditionally been competitors to collaborate and partner in new ways to really achieve something that has not been achieved before,” said Davidson.
In terms of the technology’s performance, there are technical and operational advantages that come to play. In fact, Cisco expects other operators to follow suit and deploy cloud-based RAN.
Ericsson has joined the O-RAN Alliance, a group of leading telecom service providers and suppliers with the commitment to evolving radio access network (RAN) architecture and orchestration built on openness, intelligence, flexibility and performance.
As a member, the company will focus on the open interworking between RAN and network orchestration and automation, with emphasis on AI-enabled closed-loop automation and end-to-end optimization, to lower operating cost and improve end-user performance.
Ericsson will also focus on the upper-layer function as specified in 3GPP to provide interoperable multivendor profiles for specified interfaces between central RAN functions, resulting in faster deployment of 5G networks on a global scale.
Erik Ekudden, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Ericsson, says: “Ericsson is a strong supporter of openness in the industry, and the benefits this has on global ecosystems and innovations. Our ambition is to actively support and drive discussions and developments around future RAN architectures and open interfaces. The O-RAN Alliance is an important coalition that creates an arena for these discussions, complementing other standardization and open-source initiatives in the industry which we are already active in.”
Ericsson has driven, and continues to drive, the industry towards open interfaces as part of its standardization work. The company is recognized as leaders in 3GPP and is actively contributing to several open-source communities including Linux, ONAP and OpenStack to secure open platforms useful for mobile networks.
The company’s engagement with the O-RAN Alliance is based on the future needs of mobile network service providers, and how networks must evolve to enable broad range of services with strong focus on quality, performance and security.
The O-RAN Alliance was formally formed at Mobile World Congress Shanghai on June 27, 2018 as a network operator-led effort to drive openness and intelligence in the RAN of next-generation wireless systems. At the end of 2018, the O-RAN Alliance was opened also for non-service providers to join.
Ericsson is set to reduce more staff following the disclosure of its financial results for Q2 in 2017. The company has confirmed it will axe staff, although it didn’t speculate how many jobs were at risk, in addition to this it will also reduce its real estate footprint as part of its efforts to make $1.2 billion in cuts.
Ericsson remains in the red following the publication of its Q2 financial performance, and alarmingly indicates a 164% year-on-year decline in net income. However, Ericsson CFO, Carl Mellander, has claimed that the latest round of cuts is part of its strategy to make ‘real efficiency gains’ adding that the savings will enable them to address ‘underperforming parts of the business’.
Ericsson CFO also declined to identify which locations are likely to be effected by the cutbacks, but conceded that it was highly likely that the changes proposed will be implemented and executed internally in a quick fashion. The financial spreadsheet makes grim reading for the Swedish telco, net sales are down 8% year-on-year to SEK 49.9 billion, and its bottom line swung from a SEK1.6 billion profit in Q2 in 2016, to a loss of SEK1 billion for the same period this year.
Ericsson highlighted a number of contributory factors as to why it had endured such a poor financial performance, but stressed that the biggest issue was the faster than expected decline of the overall RAN (Radio Access Network) led by the reduction in demand from China and India. Industry analysts are predicted that the decline in the RAN market will accelerate even more in 2017.
Ericsson has made a number of decisions in recent years in an attempt to halt its slide, but none of these measures introduced have been unable to have the desired effect required. Following its Q1 results earlier this year, the firm pointed to ongoing restructuring programs as a reason for losses.
Ericsson’s new strategy includes focusing on the company’s core telecommunications sector, whilst also attempting to reduce the impact of under-performing units and reviewing long-running unprofitable contracts. Mellander has claimed that he doesn’t expect to see a tangible impact from its rollout of 5G technologies and services to its bottom line until 2019, citing that LTE still had a ‘lot to give’ as operators are faced with the continually requirements to increase capacity on their network.
The CFO said, “There are huge sections of the population not covered by 4G, so I think a lot will happen there. The 4G technology being brought in now is geared towards 5G evolution. Short-term I don’t want to be overly optimistic – we are seeing a decline in the market which is a bit larger than we thought – but longer-term we want to double our profitability beyond 2018.”
Leading players in the telecommunications industry Nokia and Vodafone have announced that they have trialed innovative cloud-based technology aimed at enabling a smooth transition from 4G to 5G services and IoT.
Nokia confirmed in a press release that results have indicated that macro Nokia Air-Scale Cloud RAN running on Air-Frame NFV infrastructure meets all key performance criteria to deliver same performance level of today’s RAN architecture with added efficiency and scalability of cloud technology.
Nokia Cloud RAN architecture enables operators to use their radio assets more efficiently to meet future connectivity needs, with the Nokia Air-Scale Cloud RAN platform running on the Air=Frame NFV infrastructure and splitting baseband processing functionality between real-time and non-real time functions.
As a result, time-critical functions can be performed closer to end users at the edge of the network, while serving a wider area with Ethernet-based front-haul providing connectivity to the virtualized functions. Non-time-critical functions are centralized and virtualized in an NFV infrastructure platform located at the edge of the radio access network, offering a view across the network and allowing radio capacity to be scaled when and where it is required.
The trial, which took place at Vodafone's testing facility in Italy, used the Nokia Cloud RAN platform to evaluate the performance of centralized 5G-ready architecture, measuring peak data rates as well as download and upload speeds in a range of scenarios on the macro network, containing high power macro cellular base stations.
As a result, the trial found that the Nokia Cloud RAN achieved all of Vodafone's key performance criteria for throughput, capacity and resiliency, demonstrating that a cloud-based RAN architecture can provide the same level of high-quality service provided by a conventional LTE network, but with the added scalability, flexibility and efficiency delivered by cloud technology. Nokia and Vodafone will continue to collaborate on this project with the aim of deploying the technology commercially.
Senior Analyst for Mobile Access Infrastructure, Current Analysis, Ed Gubbins said: "Nokia has been a leader in driving and commercializing Cloud RAN innovations. The timely launches of Nokia's AirScale and AirFrame solutions give it an edge in this space, and its proactive moves to develop Multi-access Edge Computing technology - earlier than most rivals - give it added credibility."
Santiago Tenorio, Head of Networks, Vodafone Group, added: "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."
Head of Vodafone Global Customer Business Team at Nokia, Robert Loiola said: "Our Cloud RAN technology can help operators optimize network performance even as they cope with the increasing demands being placed upon them. This trial with Vodafone builds on this promise, enabling Nokia to apply its longstanding working relationship with them to explore how we can enable the smooth and efficient transition from 4G to 5G."
According to Ericsson, mobile broadband is approaching a point where cellular infrastructure will be a viable substitute for fixed broadband in many markets.
In this new environment, mobile operators are seeking ways to increase network capacity and coverage while reducing time to market for new services and achieving lower total cost of ownership.
By introducing cloud RAN architectures, operators will be able to meet accelerating demands through the use of network functions virtualization techniques and data center processing capabilities in their networks, enabling resource pooling, scalability, layer interworking and spectral efficiency.
Ericsson is forecasting phenomenal growth as the development of networks; economic growth and opportunities create more connectivity potential.
As cities around the region work progressively towards smart city status, a unique new ecosystem of stakeholders, technology and information is being formed where innovation can flourish at another level, and M2M connectivity can enhance the experience in many industries while addressing the many global challenges such as sustainability.
Residents are stepping into a revolutionized future where convenience is transformed by the Networked Society." The question now is how operators can best make use of virtualization technologies in RANs while at the same time building cost-, spectrum- and energy-efficient networks that offer a seamless user experience.
However, there are major distinctions between cloud computing in the RAN compared to the core network and service layer.
For example, the bulk of the cost of a mobile network lies in the large number of distributed base station and antenna sites, as well as in the last mile transport network links - not in central nodes and sites.
Consequently, to calculate the return on investment benefit of implementing cloud RAN, the costs associated both with the central parts of the network and its distributed elements and last-mile links must all be taken into account.
Cloud RAN options and challenges
The main challenges for mobile network infrastructure over the next five years will be to: manage large amounts of new spectrum, primarily on higher bands (> 4GHz) and then combine these with existing bands, so that by 2020 a typical mobile network operator could have access to more than 100MHz in five to 10 bands; deploy new sites to support new use cases - such as wireless offices and connected cars - which may also require new business models; develop efficient hardware and software solutions that enable the speedy introduction of new services in a sustainable way, from both an energy and cost perspective.
5G use cases and technologies, such as critical machine-type communication and full dimension multiple-input, multiple-output (FD-MIMO) may also drive the further evolution of the RAN architecture, exploiting advances in backhaul and antenna systems, among other things.
Cloud RAN architecture framework
Driven by greater needs for coordination as well as increasing resource efficiency and advances in network virtualization, cloud RAN architecture allows for the use of NFV techniques and data center processing capabilities such as coordination, centralization and virtualization in mobile networks. This supports resource pooling, scalability, layer interworking and spectral efficiency.
A Cloud RAN should support the following: separation of control and user plane to support flexible scaling of capacity for different functions of the RAN; a variety of deployment options for anticipated network scenarios, including a wide range of transport network solutions, base station configurations and user applications; alignment with legacy deployments, which reduces the overall network complexity thanks to a unified network architecture.
In general, virtualization is a technique that can mean different things in different scenarios, and it is unlikely to mean the same thing in a RAN context as in, for example, a data server context. The reason for this is the substantial difference in real time requirements imposed by the radio access protocol. Many of the synchronization requirements that ensure the performance of the radio access protocol are on the microsecond level and, in some cases, the nanosecond level.
Thus, RAN functionality is not easily hosted by the so-called virtualized platform as a service (PaaS) model, as is possible with straightforward applications and server-type functions. On the other hand, there is no need to virtualize all RAN functionality to provide the benefits of Cloud RAN.
Virtualization as an execution environment technique can be used to provide isolation, scalability and elasticity, among other things, for the Radio Resource Control (RRC) protocol layer. When applied in this manner, virtualization can be used to simplify the management and deployment of the RAN nodes, for example, by allowing the definition of arbitrarily-sized base stations and for more flexible scaling of higher layer functionality, separate from the scaling of other layers. Virtualization can also be used to leverage a common execution environment for RAN, core and application functionality, providing the ultimate in execution proximity and ensuring maximum responsiveness of, for example, a certain service.
The possibility to virtualize network functions in this way makes it feasible to place the functionality on a more generic and generally available execution platform together with cloud core applications and other latency critical services, sometimes even in a PaaS environment.
Centralization in Cloud RAN
Centralizing base station processing with Cloud RAN simplifies network management and enables resource pooling and coordination of radio resources. Pooling, or statistical multiplexing, allows an execution platform to perform the same tasks with less hardware or capacity. This is of greatest interest for tasks that require a large number of computational resources. It also means that the most desirable pooling configuration is a fully centralized baseband approach with a star connection long-haul CPRI between the pooled baseband and the distributed remote radio heads.
This is because processing of the lower layers constitutes such a large part of the computational effort. As mentioned earlier, however, there are not many cost-efficient solutions for long-haul CPRI. By using separate (data center) processing capacity for higher layers, new features can be introduced without affecting the performance and capacity of distributed baseband units.
The introduction of massive MIMO configurations - which will be of increasing interest with the move into ever-higher frequency bands - will also further highlight the need for optimized transport and baseband processing for centralized baseband configurations.
Coordination in Cloud RAN
Radio coordination between cells and bands is used to maximize spectrum efficiency and user experience. It is anticipated that there will be a need for different bandwidths of cells in different bands, as well as increasingly heterogeneous network deployments, and this will call for increasingly tight interworking between technologies and cell layers to ensure a seamless user experience.
Centralized coordination functionality is advantageous in order to simplify and maximize performance of the network, including handovers, carrier aggregation and interference management. Again, the centralized baseband configuration provides great potential to leverage interference management, joint processing and reception-combining techniques. But it is also still possible to have many levels of coordination in cases where centralization is limited to other higher layers of the radio protocol stack.
A Cloud RAN timeline
There are three primary developments that will shape the Cloud RAN environment going forward: deployments of heterogeneous networks with a mix of macro and small cells, and new bands with substantially different coverage will benefit significantly from radio resource coordination, which becomes more effective with the centralization of the execution of the resources seen in Cloud RAN; the imminent adoption of NFV into mobile core networks.
With the knowledge gained from this, focus will naturally shift towards the introduction of cloud RAN, which will enable operators to offer new services more rapidly over the future mobile broadband networks that will form the backbone of the networked society.