New 5G networks require a new way of thinking

RAN virtualization changes 5G network economics

LONDON–“One of the challenges as we roll into 5G is thinking the old way. To change economics, to change the speed at which you can deploy, to change the way in which you can be agile to deliver new services…you’ve got to think about things differently.”

That was the message from JMA Wireless’ Todd Landry, corporate vice president, product and market strategy, at 5G World.

Through the XRAN Forum, carriers have been pushing vendors to take the cost out of radio access network equipment and develop open interfaces and interoperability frameworks. Virtualizing RAN functionalities leads to larger cloudification of the RAN. In the context of 5G, end-to-end, cloud-native design is what will ultimately allow for network slicing and a whole new way of delivering services.

JMA is a big player in the in-building wireless space. Earlier this year the company deployed its vRAN solution and TEKO distributed antenna system at the Dacia Arena in Udine, Italy, in partnership with neutral host operator INWIT. For more on that project, check out this Q&A with President of TEKO Systems Remo Ricci.

Back to Landry on venue deployments: “As we look at some of the new edge interfaces in the cloud, the ability to have a smaller amount of equipment in the venue and have this functionality operate in the cloud. When we move to software, we can reuse resources over and over. With software, I can take functionality and move it to another site. The assets that are actually processing the users’ information can actually be removed from the edge and operate as an elastic asset that operates in your network cloud. It’s a very interesting way to think about it.”

Virtualized RAN was a big topic at 5G World. Mavenir’s John Baker also addressed the topic in a keynote presentation, looking to a future where the baseband has its own app store. Read more about that here.

In May, Verizon said it fully virtualized baseband functions in a trial environment. According to the carrier, baseband virtualization is central to commercializing multi-access edge computing and network slicing. It also changes vendor dynamics by trading proprietary solutions from the likes of Ericsson or Nokia for common off-the-shelf server-type infrastructure running specialized software.

At the time, Verizon SVP of Network Planning Adam Koeppe called the testing a “critical piece of providing the next generation of wireless solutions for consumers and enterprises. With a virtualized baseband unit, we will lay the foundation to be able to move computing functionality to the edge of the network will be able to raipdly respond to customers’ varied latency and computing needs.”

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