Verizon, has extended its network virtualization efforts with the addition of the first Ericsson virtualized cell site (also referred to as Ericsson Cloud RAN), with support from Intel and RedHat providing the processing and cloud-native orchestration functions.
The advancements in Radio Access Network virtualization allows Verizon to rapidly respond to customers’ varied latency and computing needs, and provides greater flexibility and agility in the introduction of new products and services. The move to a cloud-native, virtualized architecture with standardized interfaces in every part of the network leads to greater flexibility, faster delivery of services, greater scalability, and improved cost efficiency in networks. Verizon has been a global leader in virtualizing its network, announcing recently it already has 8,000 cell sites already virtualized in its network with an eye towards virtualizing 20,000 sites.
Virtualizing the far edge of the RAN – the cell sites closest to the customer – is a function of decoupling the hardware and software associated with a cell tower and transitioning the software so that it’s not just stored in the cloud, but is designed for a cloud-native architecture and operation.
Just this week, Verizon and Ericsson published a position paper outlining the optimal technology path for VRAN in order to maximize the performance and efficiency of the network, disaggregate hardware from software, and simplify deployment wherever possible. This technology is built into the first Ericsson virtualized cell site deployed in the Verizon network.
Components of VRAN
Verizon coordinated with many ecosystem partners to welcome Ericsson’s first virtualized cell site.
Ericsson provided its commercial 5G Cloud RAN solution, consisting of a virtualized Central Unit (vCU), a virtualized Distributed Unit (vDU), and radio units. This software-based 5G Cloud RAN solution spans across all of Verizon’s frequency bands, utilizing both FDD and TDD 5G spectrum assets, including Massive MIMO support for C-band and interconnecting previously deployed equipment to enable Ericsson Spectrum Sharing between LTE and NR carriers. The Ericsson Cloud RAN solution offers Verizon efficiency and in network deployment and operational management transformation.
Intel provided its 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor, Intel vRAN Dedicated Accelerator ACC100 and Intel Ethernet Network Adapter E810 to deliver the processing, acceleration and connectivity requirements.
Red Hat provided Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes to manage their fleet at scale in collaboration with Red Hat Consulting. As part of the solution, Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management delivers cloud-scale manageability by configuring the 5G RAN using a Distributed Unit (DU) profile, which deploys real-time OS kernel optimizations to run vRAN and other cloud-native application workloads from a single console. Red Hat OpenShift also incorporates zero-touch provisioning to enable distributed deployment at scale required to operate a large scale RAN.
Virtualization paves the way for exciting innovation
Verizon has been leading the way in virtualization with its vendor partners for years. Verizon began the journey by virtualizing the core of its network. In the years since, Verizon has been working with partners in lab trials and field tests and has been deploying cloud-based cell sites, building programmability into the network to meet the needs of today’s 5G customers and 5G solutions of tomorrow.
Key 5G use cases focused on providing the best, most efficient network for customers, will heavily rely on the programmability of virtualized networks. Networks must serve IoT devices that do very little networking and stay in place, smartphones with infinite opportunities to use data in a highly mobile environment, and complex solutions like Augmented Reality that require massive computing capabilities on the edge of the network. These various network solutions rely on a correlated variety of resources from the network, which until recently have been defined rigidly and manually. Using orchestration and automation capabilities at scale on virtual infrastructure, Verizon automates network configuration changes and resource scaling dynamically based on demand. This is one of the greatest benefits of virtualizing a network – essentially building programmability into the network.