Alcatel-Lucent and China Mobile are claiming an industry first after completing what they described as the first live field trial of a virtualised radio access network (vRAN) based on network functions virtualisation (NFV) technology.
The trial was carried out at Beijing's Tsinghua University and is heralded by the companies as an important step towards 5G networks. Indeed, NFV is regarded as a future key pillar of next-generation mobile networks.
In the trial Alcatel-Lucent's vRAN technology was deployed throughout the 442 hectares of the university campus, providing both indoor and outdoor coverage. The vendor said the trial helped to demonstrate the flexibility of the vRAN network, including its ability to dynamically scale network resources in response to traffic demands by the users across the campus.
China Telecom is trialling technologies such as NFV to prepare for its move to 5G as well as the network demands expected from the Internet of Things (IoT). Alcatel-Lucent noted that global data traffic is predicted to increase almost tenfold between 2014 and 2019 as more people and machines are connected to the Internet.
Dr. Chih-Lin I, chief scientist of China Mobile Research Institute said: "The vRAN technology will allow us to deliver new efficiencies across our network as our customers' data demands change and more devices connect to our network. We are interested to see how the deployment of Alcatel-Lucent's vRAN will help us to smoothly evolve our networks to meet these demands."
The trial in China follows the announcement by the vendor last week that it has extended NFV testing with Telefónica. The Spain-based operator also wants to investigate how it can prepare its mobile network to meet future demands placed on it by IoT, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and increased customer connectivity.
vRAN technology is essentially being designed to provide operators with greater flexibility to scale and load balance their networks. Vendors say the purpose of NFV-based RAN platforms is to lay the foundation for supporting multiple access technologies, such as LTE, LTE Advanced and Wi-Fi, while providing an evolution path to 5G and accelerating time-to-market for new services.
- see this Alcatel-Lucent release
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