RAN is part of larger 5G, cloud strategy

Orange Poland is continuing with its 5G strategy most recently by working with network infrastructure vendor Nokia to test out a cloud-based radio access network. The cloud RAN trial, which ran from March to May, saw radio sites fed by a virtualized baseband deployed in a data center 70 kilometers away; Ethernet fronthaul served as the transport mechanism.

The disaggregation of radio and baseband equipment can allow for centralized resource allocation, as well as prove helpful with network densification efforts. The cloud RAN looked at a virtualized base station supporting LTE and 5G networks as discussed by Orange Global’s Vice President of Radio Access Networks and Microwaves Arnaud Vamparys: “RAN virtualization is a critical enabler to deliver a better and more homogeneous customer experience on 4G and future 5G networks, allowing these multi-service networks to simultaneously handle various types of objects with different connectivity needs.”

Here’s a quick video on the cloud RAN project. 

Orange has used its Polish subsidiary to trial technologies that could make their way to network implementations elsewhere in the operator’s global footprint. Orange Poland was the first of the service provider’s national businesses to test open source network management and operations software, and is building the foundation for a virtualized 5G network “brick by brick,” as Krzysztof Kozlowski, managing director of Orange Labs International Poland, explained in an April interview with RCR Wireless News.

He said the operator’s path to 5G is based on pragmatism, and highlighted that while the emphasis on 5G discussion largely relates to how the end user will benefit, there are major benefits to the operator in terms of lowering data transport costs and reducing network opex. “It’s a way to cope with increasing traffic and increasing cost of network infrastructure.” Network slicing and the “automation it brings will really limit the costs from the operator point view. The same for the IoT piece. For IoT now we built a dedicated network while with 5G it will be native.”

As it moves toward a virtualized infrastructure, Orange Poland got an early start on testing of software control, working with Amdocs to trial the Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy software developed by AT&T. That began in February 2017; since then the Linux Foundation worked with AT&T and Huawei, which developed the Open-O orchestration software platform, to combine the two into what’s called the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) and make it available as open source software.

Kozlowski described testing ONAP as “the first step” toward full virtualization and automated network slicing. “We’ll have to walk before we run. This is exactly what’s happening with virtualization. Virtualization is kind of the first step in terms of architecture.”

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