Nokia and Vodafone said they’ve successfully completed a Cloud RAN (C-RAN) trial at Vodafone’s Italy-based test facility, in which they demonstrated 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 and efficiency that cloud technology brings.
The trial used the Nokia Cloud RAN platform to evaluate the performance of centralized 5G-ready architecture, measuring peak data rates as well as download and upload speeds in a range of scenarios on the macro network, with high power macro cellular base stations.
The companies reported that the trial found Nokia Cloud RAN achieved all of Vodafone's key performance criteria for throughput, capacity and resiliency. Specifically, the trial used the Nokia AirScale Cloud Base Server—a virtual base station running LTE technology—as well as the Nokia AirFrame Data Center platform and Nokia Global Services, with engineers working closely with Vodafone’s radio experts to prepare, execute and validate the results from different test cases.
The cloud-based radio access technology is expected to help Vodafone make the transition from 4G to 5G. "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,” Santiago Tenorio, head of Networks at Vodafone Group, said in a press release. “It speeds up the delivery of services and will help with the transition to 5G."
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, they can perform time-critical functions 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. Radio capacity can be scaled when and where it’s required as the system provides a view across the network.
Nokia and Vodafone plan to continue collaborating on the project with the aim of deploying the technology commercially, but didn't attach a timeline to the commercial rollout.
In a report earlier this year, Current Analysis identified Nokia, as well as Altiostar and Huawei, as being especially proactive and thorough in addressing anticipated market demand for cloud RAN.
"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," Ed Gubbins, senior analyst for Mobile Access Infrastructure at Current Analysis, said in the release.
Nokia has made it clear that nobody’s going to get to 5G without transitional technology between 4G and 5G. In September, the company announced that 4.5G Pro, powered by its 5G-ready AirScale portfolio, would be available in the fourth quarter to help operators meet capacity and speed requirements. It said that 4.5G Pro will deliver 10 times the speeds of initial 4G networks, making it possible for operators to offer gigabit peak data rates.