Nokia and Vodafone trial cloud-based RAN architecture

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Trial architecture to evaluate how cloud-optimised radio access macro network architectures will enable smooth operator transition from 4G to 5G services and IoT

Nokia and Vodafone have trialled the use of cloud-based radio access technology for macro networks to evaluate how it will enable a smooth transition from 4G to 5G and meet the connectivity demands expected from the next generation wireless platform together with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Nokia Cloud RAN architecture enables operators to use their radio assets more efficiently to meet future connectivity needs, with the Nokia AirScale Cloud RAN platform running on the AirFrame 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 fronthaul providing connectivity to the virtualized functions. Non time critical functions are centralised and virtualised 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 centralised 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.

Ed Gubbins, senior analyst for mobile access infrastructure at research firm, Current Analysis, 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, said: “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.”

Roberto Loiola, head of Vodafone global customer business team  at Nokia, added: “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.”

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