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Mar 30 2017

Turning virtual into very real with AirScale Cloud RAN

Twitter: @annapietil

Here we continue our series of blogs about Nokia AirScale Radio Access, showing how operators can start their virtualization journey and prepare for a cloud-based future with AirScale Cloud RAN.

Before the idea of IT virtualization came along, ‘virtual’ meant something that existed only in essence or in the imagination; something perhaps ghostly. While virtualized networks have an element of this about them (they are not something you can see and touch), what they can achieve is very real.

At Mobile World Congress 2017, I was privileged to be able to show visitors just how real, with the world’s first demonstration of Cloud Single RAN running 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G (baseband) in the cloud with AirScale Cloud Base Station. We also showed both 2G and 3G network controllers in the cloud, as well as 4G-5G multi-connectivity for a seamless user experience.

All this was done on commercial Nokia AirScale and AirFrame platforms over Ethernet, with both AirScale System Module and AirScale Cloud Base Station running 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. Real, available products. No slideware. No simulations.

When operators witnessed the demonstration at MWC 2017, they could see 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G baseband running in the cloud and, for example, experience live data, such as video in the cloud, view a seamless user experience between 4G and 5G, and experience the benefits of a multi-connectivity layer in the cloud. They could even make cloud calls and see the 3G cloud controller, AirScale RNC and the 2G cloud controller, AirScale BSC, in action. The chance to experience all this drew a large number of visitors to the demonstration.

With this demonstration we have shown that virtualization of functions is feasible for all radio access technologies on the Nokia Cloud RAN platform. Combined with core, MEC and common management, this leads to many benefits - flexible capacity scaling, rapid new service launches, lower costs and a smooth migration to 5G. Today's well-established 4G is evolving to 4.5G, 4.5G Pro and 4.9G, which will be progressively rolled out to deliver higher network performance and better customer experiences, culminating in commercial 5G services. Cloud RAN is an element of 4.9G. Deploying a Cloud RAN sooner rather than later does make a difference in terms of  business agility, scalable capacity, network efficiency and technology flexibility operators need when preparing for the diverse demands of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G.

As part of the AirScale Radio Access solution, AirScale Cloud RAN has been developed with several operators and already proven itself in global trials, such as:SK Telecom: AirScale Cloud RAN has achieved the world’s first deployment of Cloud RAN in a commercial network, for SKT in KoreaVodafone: AirScale Cloud RAN met all key performance criteria to deliver the performance of conventional RAN architecture, but with higher efficiency and scalabilityElisa: Elisa was the first in Finland to test Cloud RAN, taking base stations into the cloud.

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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