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How to spend less and do more with Cloud RAN. But don’t just take our word for it

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As you probably know, we at Nokia are big fans of the Cloud Radio Access Network (RAN).

So it’s little surprise we jumped at the chance recently to ask Phil Marshall, Chief Research Officer of Tolaga Research, for his thoughts on why and how operators should adopt Cloud RAN. For starters, Phil told us that “Cloud RAN enables operators to capitalize on broad industry momentum towards virtualization, high bandwidth access network connectivity and edge computing.”

One of the main drivers of this momentum is a substantial reduction in the RAN’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Nokia’s own analysis shows that over a five year period, the cloud-based RAN can provide up to 40 percent lower TCO than a conventional network. Before we come back to Phil’s other insights in this blog, let’s highlight some of the main ways the Cloud RAN cuts TCO.

Fast deployment of services. First, a fully virtualized 5G base station, such as the Nokia AirScale All-in-Cloud BTS, enables both the virtualized distributed unit (DU) and centralized unit (CU) to run on a general purpose processor platform. New software and services can be introduced more quickly and more easily because service code doesn’t need adapting for proprietary hardware. As we know, time savings mean cost savings.

High hardware utlization. Pooled software enables more cells to be processed on the same data center servers. This more efficient use of processing power allows hardware to be dimensioned according to average traffic loads. The cost of over-dimensioning to meet peak load is simply eliminated.

Multi-tenancy resources. The same physical servers can host different applications and services. Cost savings are achieved by using spare general-purpose compute resources for applications other than RAN.

Lower operational costs. Centralizing baseband functions in the data center reduces the need for radio site visits, cuts the number of hardware platforms needed, consolidates installation and maintenance processes, and lowers radio site leasing costs.

Greater automation. Open interfaces allow easy integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms, enabling the network to automatically optimize itself to meet unpredictable demand in mere minutes or even seconds.

In short, Cloud RAN reduces an operator’s TCO through simplification, automation and operational efficiency gains.

Cloud RAN

An expert’s Cloud RAN insights

Now, back to our chat with Phil Marshall. Another key reason for operators to adopt Cloud RAN, he says, is changing radio network demands: “Network architectures and service demands are changing with growing demand for small cells, campus based networks and support for vertical industry capabilities. Cloud RAN efficiently addresses these demands.”

We next asked Phil what operators should consider as they adopt the technology. “They need to recognize it’s a journey,” he says. “Cloud RAN requires operational transformation with short-term costs eclipsed by long term gains. It is important that operators recognize the operational challenges involved and make sure cloud RAN is phased appropriately to succeed.

“It’s also vital to balance investments between commodity and best-of-breed technologies by anticipating Cloud RAN functions that require specialized capabilities, versus those that can be supported with commodity technology. For example, specialized capabilities might be needed to optimize overall radio network performance, or to address specific vertical industry services like smart cities or Industry 4.0.”

As you can see, there are lots of reasons to be enthusiastic about Cloud RAN. That’s why we designed the Nokia AirScale All-in-cloud base station to provide the flexibility needed for future services and requirements for 5G, IoT, low latency services and end-to-end network slicing.

Further reading:

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia or @nokianetworks using #5G #cloud #telcocloud

Anna-Kaarina Pietilä

About Anna-Kaarina Pietilä

Anna-Kaarina Pietilä is responsible for AirScale and AirScale Cloud RAN at Nokia. She enjoys writing blogs about these solutions and about innovative, high-quality software which improve smartphone experience and network capacity. She holds an MA from Åbo Akademi University and University of Turku and is based in Finland.

Tweet me at @annapietil

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