Verizon recently completed the first end-to-end fully virtualized 5G data session in the US. This technology milestone provides the foundation for Verizon to rapidly respond to customers’ varied latency and computing needs by providing the foundation for wide-scale mobile edge computing and network slicing.
Earlier this month, Verizon launched 5G mobile edge compute live for developers with AWS Wavelength at Verizon’s 5G Edge locations in Boston and the Bay Area. As Verizon extends its MEC leadership, virtualization in the Radio Access Network (RAN) becomes even more important.
Virtualizing the RAN, like the virtualization work previously completed in the core of the network, decouples software and hardware functionality enabling the network to be built on general purpose hardware. Using Common Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware leads to greater flexibility and agility in the introduction of new products and services. Instead of adding or upgrading single-purpose hardware, the move to a cloud native, container-based virtualized architecture with standardized interfaces leads to greater flexibility, faster delivery of services, greater scalability, and improved cost efficiency in networks.
“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, Senior Vice President of Technology and Planning for Verizon. “Verizon has been on the leading edge of virtualizing the core over the past few years and has been bullish in the design and development of open RAN technology, as well as in the testing of that technology with great success.”
This virtualization will also lower the barrier to entry for new vendors in the ecosystem. New entrants will accelerate innovation, reduce operating costs, and lay the groundwork for flexible network and cloud infrastructure closer to the customer, eventually leading to single digit latency. Key 5G use cases focused on providing the best, most efficient network for customers, will heavily rely on the programmability of virtualized networks.
“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. Advancements in virtualization technology are critical steps towards that realization,” said Koeppe.
It takes a village
Verizon coordinated with many partners in this demonstration of successful virtualization in the Radio Access Network.
Samsung provided its commercial 5G virtualized RAN solution, consisting of a virtualized Central Unit (vCU), a virtualized Distributed Unit (vDU), and radio units. The solution can provide mobile operators with improved efficiency, flexibility, and management benefits through the deployment of a software-based 5G radio infrastructure. Samsung announced commercial availability of its fully-virtualized 5G RAN solution last month.
Intel provided its Intel Xeon Scalable processor, Intel FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card (Intel FPGA PAC) N3000, Intel Ethernet Network Adapter XXV710 to deliver the processing, acceleration and connectivity requirements, and its FlexRAN software reference architecture.
Wind River is providing Verizon with a cloud-native, Kubernetes- and container-based software infrastructure, which delivers ultra-low latency and high availability for national deployment of virtualized 5G RAN. Wind River’s solution is integrated with best-in-class vRAN applications, providing single-pane-of-glass and zero-touch automated management, and network analytics.
Verizon continues to build on past success in virtualization
Verizon first announced achievements towards its virtualization efforts in early 2019 when it became the first in the world to introduce cloud-native technology in a live wireless core network environment and then demonstrated the technology in a successful trial of the 5G standalone core earlier this year.
Following virtualization of the core, Verizon successfully tested virtualization of baseband unit operations in a lab environment in 2019. Today, virtualization efforts culminated in an end-to-end, live network environment demonstration. Full vRAN deployment will commence in the coming months.