Deutsche Telekom, AT&T, SKT team on ‘xRAN’ to bring SDN, NFV to the RAN

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO of Deutsche Telekom

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany — Deutsche Telekom, AT&T and SK Telecom joined forces to promote radio access networks (RANs) that are based on software and thus move away from what the operators described as today’s “highly proprietary RAN infrastructure."

The three operators made use of the NGMN Industry Conference and Exhibition, here, to launch, which aims to demonstrate how software-based, extensible RANs can enable operators to made better use of spectrum assets, reduce opex and capex, and bring services to markets faster than before based on emerging use cases.

Petr Ledl, head of the 5G:haus research group at Deutsche Telekom, explained that xRAN is based on the principles of network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software-defined networks (SDN).

“This is the first effort on the RAN,” he said, noting that most NFV and SDN work has so far focused on core networks.

He added that the alliance was to a certain extent born out of ongoing frustrations with vendors and the lack of flexibility that operators currently have with RANs.

The goal is to decouple the control panel from the base station to better serve users by manipulating load balances on the different base stations. also hopes to invite more operators to joint its ranks and support the entry of smaller software providers into the RAN environment. Intel, Texas Instruments, Aricent, Radisys and Professor Sachin Katti from Stanford University have already provided their support to the alliance.

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO of Deutsche Telekom, claimed that xRAN has the potential to transform the way mobile access networks are built and managed.

“This supports our vision for RAN infrastructure evolution, which is an important component of our software defined operator model. With the adoption of a software-based multi-service delivery platform, we will have the flexibility to better respond to our customers changing user, application and business needs in the 5G era,” Jacobfeuerborn said in a statement.

At NGMN, members are demonstrating an initial reference implementation in a multi-vendor demonstration to highlight the flexibility of xRAN’s open interfaces, decoupled control plane and evolved base stations (or evolved node B) stacked on commodity hardware, as an alternative to existing closed, distributed control implementations on proprietary hardware.

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