Nokia and Vodafone join forces to trial cloud-based RAN architecture

Nokia and Vodafone join forces to trial cloud-based RAN architecture [Image: alengo via iStock]

Nokia and Vodafone have been working together to trial the use of cloud-based radio access technology for macro networks to establish how it could bring about a smooth transition from 4G to 5G. The trial is also intended to help networks evaluate how they could meet the connectivity demands expected from the next-generation wireless platform together with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Nokia said its Cloud Radio Access Network (RAN) architecture enables operators to use their radio assets more efficiently to meet future connectivity needs. This is seen through Nokia’s AirScale Cloud RAN platform running on the AirFrame Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) infrastructure and splitting baseband processing functionality between real-time and non-real-time functions.

As a result, time-critical functions can be performed closer to end users at the edge of the network, while serving a wider area with Ethernet-based fronthaul providing connectivity to the virtualised functions, according to Nokia.

Non-time-critical functions will be centralised and virtualised in an NFV infrastructure platform located at the edge of the radio access network, offering a view across the network and allowing radio capacity to be scaled when and where it is required.

The trial took place at Vodafone's testing facility in Italy, and used the Nokia Cloud RAN platform to evaluate the performance of centralised 5G-ready architecture, measuring peak data rates as well as download and upload speeds in a number of scenarios on the macro network, which contained high-power macro cellular base stations.

Researchers found that the Nokia Cloud RAN achieved all of Vodafone's key performance criteria for throughput, capacity and resiliency. Nokia said this demonstrates that a cloud-based RAN architecture can provide the same level of high-quality service provided by a conventional LTE network, but with the added scalability, flexibility and efficiency delivered by cloud technology.

Roberto Loiola, head of the Vodafone global customer business team at Nokia, said: “Our Cloud RAN technology can help operators optimise network performance, even as they cope with the increasing demands being placed upon them.

“This trial with Vodafone builds on this promise, enabling Nokia to apply its longstanding working relationship with them to explore how we can enable the smooth and efficient transition from 4G to 5G.”

Nokia and Vodafone will continue to collaborate on this project with the aim of deploying the technology commercially.