Verizon pats self on back for 5G network virtualization

Verizon says virtualizing the entire network from the core to the edge has been a massive, multi-year redesign effort. Getty Images)

Verizon says it completed a fully-virtualized 5G data session in a live network. This means that the session was conducted on a virtualized core, a virtualized RAN and a virtualized edge.

Virtualization is defined as the decoupling of software and hardware; and then the software can run on more generic, general-purpose hardware.

“Virtualizing the entire network from the core to the edge has been a massive, multi-year redesign effort of our network architecture that simplifies and modernizes our entire network,” said Adam Koeppe, SVP of technology and planning for Verizon, in a statement. 

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Verizon, like AT&T, has been virtualizing its core network over the past few years. Former Verizon executive Shawn Hakl and current Verizon VP Victoria Lonker were both instrumental in the early virtualization of Verizon’s core network. Hakl has since moved on to a leadership position at Microsoft.

Last summer, Verizon said it was working with Ericsson to trial container technology on Verizon's live evolved packet core. Containers are lightweight, standalone, executable packages of software code to run an application. They’re the most modern technology for virtualization in data-center-type environments, often replacing virtual machines these days.

RELATED: Verizon and Ericsson turn up cloud-native and containers in a wireless core trial

A virtualized core is not the same as a standalone (SA) 5G core; the latter is distinguished from an LTE core by unique features for 5G specified by the 3GPP. Verizon recently said that it had completed an end-to-end data session over its new SA 5G core. Bill Stone, VP of planning for Verizon, said at the time, “By building this 5G core with cloud-native containerized architecture, we will be able to achieve new levels of operational automation, flexibility and adaptability.”

The RAN

In terms of virtualization in the radio access network (RAN), Verizon named vendors it’s been working with, including Samsung, Intel and Wind River.

Samsung provided its commercial 5G virtualized RAN solution, consisting of a virtualized Central Unit (vCU), a virtualized Distributed Unit (vDU), and radio units. Verizon has been working with Samsung since at least October 2019 when it confirmed that it was the first operator to use Samsung’s 3GPP 5G NR-compliant integrated radio Access Unit (AU) for millimeter wave spectrum.

Samsung just announced commercial availability of its 5G vRAN product last month.

RELATED: Samsung joins commercial 5G vRAN party

Verizon also said it’s using Intel products for its RAN virtualization, including Intel Xeon Scalable processors, Intel FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card N3000 and Intel Ethernet Network Adapter XXV710 to deliver processing, acceleration and connectivity requirements, along with Intel’s FlexRAN software reference architecture.

And Wind River is providing Verizon with a container-based software infrastructure for national deployment of Verizon’s virtualized 5G RAN.

The Edge

Earlier this month, Verizon and Amazon Web Services (AWS) said they were bringing 5G edge compute to Boston and the surrounding Bay Area. The service uses AWS Wavelength to embed AWS compute and storage services at Verizon’s 5G Edge to enable applications with ultra-low latencies and support use cases that rely on the edge.

The announcement with AWS came less than a year after Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and AWS CEO Andy Jassy announced their partnership during an AWS re:Invent keynote. At that time, Verizon said it expects to launch 5G edge computing in 10 cities in 2020. As of today, the edge service is only launched in the Boston area and in Chicago. A Verizon spokesperson said, "Chicago is a closed test bed. It's not available to the public. The only AWS Wavelength zones live at the edge of our 5G network are in Boston and the Bay Area."  

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