The city that never sleeps trials a new 5G optimization technology that’s always awake to new possibilities
Testing new infrastructure in a live network is an essential step in the development of new capabilities. It provides the confidence that a new technology will deliver on its promises.
So it is especially satisfying to see the successful completion of the world’s first limited live trial of a Radio Access Network (RAN) Intelligent Controller (RIC) on AT&T’s 5G network in New York. The RIC is pointing the way to a host of new opportunities for Communications Service Providers (CSPs). One of the most exciting is the enabling of RAN programmability for easy integration of new services, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to automatically optimize the network.
What is RAN Intelligent Controller?
Last year, AT&T and Nokia announced their collaboration to jointly create the software platform for the RIC and the E2 interface defined by ORAN and contribute the results to the Linux Foundation Open Source Community. An open and programmable RAN enables many new capabilities for the use of 4G and 5G networks – customization, the management of slices, improved services, and novel optimization algorithms enabled by artificial intelligence. Overall, it allows a CSP’s business to grow through an open ecosystem and faster time-to-market.
The O-RAN Alliance has defined the RIC as a new network element. It allows external applications to control aspects of the 4G and 5G radio network much faster than is currently possible through installed control applications. These external apps, called xApps, provide a multitude of benefits. One example is smarter traffic steering across different layers and Radio Access Technologies, driven by machine learning, improving spectral efficiency and network capacity. Meanwhile, localized and use case-based customization and rapid onboarding of features will help to offer a far superior customer experience.
Running apps at the network edge fulfills extreme use case requirements. For example, it could enable dedicated network slicing and RAN optimization, while multi-access edge computing (MEC) could deliver ultra-low latency and allow critical content to be processed locally.
World-first is a joint effort
Nokia and AT&T will continue to collaborate to advance further the development of the RIC and help build an open ecosystem of applications to leverage its capabilities. With the O-RAN defined RIC and E2 interface, the industry will securely accelerate innovation and create new business models.
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