Verizon reported another milestone on its path to deploying new wireless technologies such as Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) and network slicing: It completed a trial in California where it achieved full virtualization of baseband functions—the heaviest portion of computing on the Radio Access Network (RAN).
It brings the carrier a step closer to the ultimate goal of making the network hardware agnostic, so it can use common off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware for faster deployment of products and services.
“Having virtualized the core of the network last year, this significant step forward in virtualizing the RAN edge is a critical piece of providing the next generation of wireless solutions for consumers and enterprises,” said Adam Koeppe, senior vice president of Network Planning, in a press release. “With a virtualized baseband unit, we will lay the foundation to be able to move computing functionality to the edge of the network and will be able to rapidly respond to customers’ varied latency and computing needs.”
Traditionally in wireless networks, hardware and software are coupled together, thereby restricting the location of where operations could happen. However, in this trial, hardware and software were decoupled, providing greater flexibility in where computing operations could take place within the network.
The operator also said this particular virtualization will lower the barrier of entry for others in the ecosystem, resulting in an acceleration of innovation, reduced operating costs and ultimately, lead to single-digit latency, which is one of the key promises of 5G.
Verizon worked with Intel and Nokia on the trial that took place in Carpinteria, east of Santa Barbara.
Intel provided the Xeon Scalable processor-based platforms and FlexRAN reference architecture, while Nokia provided the AirScale All-in-Cloud Base Station architecture, which Verizon said will provide the flexibility needed for future services and requirements for 5G, IoT, low latency services and end-to-end network slicing.
"Flexibility, efficiency, and performance are just some of the benefits that a network provides when transformed with cloud efficiencies, powered by Intel technology,” said Cristina Rodriguez, vice president, Data Center Group and General Manager Wireless Access Network Division at Intel. “By innovating and collaborating on this trial and achieving this milestone, Intel, Nokia and Verizon have shown that the applicability of Cloud RAN on the network edge is possible for agile service delivery that incorporates AI and data analytics.”
According to Verizon, the trial, along with other work it’s doing, such as the MEC tests conducted in Houston, are all paving the way for game-changing solutions for customers and enterprises.
“Verizon continues to lead the way in advancing communications’ networks and how they will be used in the future,” Koeppe said. “Massive scale IOT solutions, more robust consumer devices and solutions, AR/VR, remote healthcare, autonomous robotics in manufacturing environments, and ubiquitous smart city solutions are only some of the ways we will be able to deliver the promise of the digital world. These advancements in technology are critical steps towards that realization.”