Ohhhh-klahoma! Where Verizon's sweeping legacy down the drain

Trials virty radio with Nokia, Chipzilla

Verizon's enthusiasm for 5G and virtualization has spawned a virtual radio access network trial in the USA.

The network know-how came from Nokia. Intel, always alive to a network architecture that can put once-specialised functions onto lots of generic servers, also took part.

Nokia called the “Cloud RAN” trial, in Oklahoma City, the first stage in Verizon's vRAN 1.0 architecture. Nokia's contribution was its Xeon-based AirScale Cloud Base Station Server.

AirScale is Nokia's virtualization play: intelligence is pushed cloud-wards, leaving behind a more compact base station that's easier to deploy (since it's smaller, and since most of the configuration is back in the cloud).

The three companies say further work on the “cloud RAN” will support development of the cloud radio access network as part of Verizon's vRAN 2.0 “which will bring everything but the radio network into the cloud”.

Nokia says the base station was connected over vanilla Ethernet to Verizon's off-the-shelf-based Cloud Platform, as a proof that the vRAN works without proprietary network kit.

Intel's clearly identified the ongoing virtualization of telco networks as an Opportunity Not To Be Missed: in a separate announcement this week, Chipzilla is one of the founding members of a Cisco-led “Open vRAN” initiative, and we noted it's been working with other carrier initiatives since 2015.

As a response to formerly-limited compute power and connectivity, the legacy base station is designed to work nearly autonomously of the rest of the network. As well as the radio, it registers the subscriber's location, handles signalling, and pushes packets between phones and the network.

In a world where most city base stations are fibre-connected to data centres hosting as many virtual servers as you need, gigabit-scale connections let carriers put the base station software onto virtual machines in data centres. ®

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