Nokia, Vodafone trial new technology for 4G to 5G transition by telcos

Nokia and Vodafone have trialled the use of cloud-based radio access technology for macro networks to evaluate how it will enable a smooth transition from 4G to 5G and meet the connectivity demands expected from the next-generation wireless platform together with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Nokia Cloud RAN architecture enables operators to use their radio assets more efficiently to meet future connectivity needs, with the Nokia AirScale Cloud RAN platform running on the AirFrame 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 virtualized functions. Non-time-critical functions are centralized and virtualized 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, which took place at Vodafone’s testing facility in Italy, used the Nokia Cloud RAN platform to evaluate the performance of centralized 5G-ready architecture, measuring peak data rates as well as download and upload speeds in a range of scenarios on the macro network, containing high power macro cellular base stations. As a result, the trial found that the Nokia Cloud RAN achieved all of Vodafone’s key performance criteria for throughput, capacity and resiliency, demonstrating 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. Nokia and Vodafone will continue to collaborate on this project with the aim of deploying the technology commercially. 

Nokia AirScale Cloud Base Station Server is a virtual base station running LTE technology while the Nokia AirFrame Data Center platform is designed to meet stringent radio access capacity, performance and latency requirements powered by Nokia real-time cloud infrastructure software. Nokia Global Services’ engineers worked closely with Vodafone’s radio experts to prepare, execute and validate results from the different test cases. 

Ed Gubbins, Senior Analyst for Mobile Access Infrastructure, Current Analysis, said: “Nokia has been a leader in driving and commercializing Cloud RAN innovations. The timely launches of Nokia’s AirScale and AirFrame solutions give it an edge in this space, and its proactive moves to develop Multi-access Edge Computing technology – earlier than most rivals – give it added credibility.” 

Santiago Tenorio, Head of Networks, Vodafone Group, said: “Working with Nokia on this trial we have seen how the application of Cloud RAN architecture can help the network react to changing demands quickly. It speeds up the delivery of services and will help with the transition to 5G.” 

Roberto Loiola, Head of Vodafone Global Customer Business Team  at Nokia, said. “Our Cloud RAN technology can help operators optimize 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’s 5G-ready AirScale Cloud RAN has been developed in cooperation with operators to ensure it meets the diverse demands of any market. Nokia’s unique multi-layered approach supports distributed and centralized deployments as well as a mix of both. Ready to meet future network requirements, AirScale Cloud RAN is upgraded via software, reducing the cost associated with site visits. It also supports multiple fronthaul technologies, including Ethernet fronthaul, to allow operators to optimize transport costs based on the needs at the cell site. 

Current Analysis highlighted Nokia’s AirScale as the most significant new RAN solution introduced at Mobile World Congress 2016.  A Current Analysis report highlights Nokia, with its AirScale solution, as a leader in Cloud RAN.

Nokia has defined a path to 5G, which it announced in September this year, that allows leading operators to take advantage of major increases in speed and capacity where and when they need it using 4.5G, 4.5G Pro and 4.9G technologies.