Verizon deploys more than 8,000 vRAN cell sites

Verizon said today that it has deployed more than 8,000 virtualized radio access network (vRAN) cell sites. And it has the goal of deploying over 20,000 by the end of 2025.

One of the greatest benefits of virtualizing its network is that network resources can be dynamically allocated for wildly different 5G use cases — ranging from fairly static IoT uses to complex augmented reality situations. vRAN also provides greater flexibility in the introduction of new products and services.

A spokesperson for Verizon said, “The vRAN units cited in this release are our RAN equipment which is provided by Samsung.”

Earlier this year, Mobile Experts principal Joe Madden said Verizon was installing its virtual distributed unit (vDU) equipment at cell sites using hardened enclosures to protect it from the elements. But he thinks the carrier is missing an opportunity by not putting air-conditioned units with more computing equipment for mobile edge compute (MEC) applications.

Today Madden said, “It’s not a rack-and-stack system like the hyperscalers have, and there’s not a lot of extra horsepower for edge applications to run separately. I was hoping operators would put a little extra horsepower in, but that’s not there. I think it is relatively doable.”

For its virtualized central units (vCU), Verizon places those in its own telco cloud in its own data centers. “Using a Verizon-owned and operated webscale platform, Verizon engineers have created a cloud-native architecture,” said the company. “Verizon’s telco cloud has been optimized for telco workloads, unique telco regulatory and performance requirements, and tighter integration with other operations systems.”

"There are vCUs (control units - also from Samsung in this case) that run on the Verizon Cloud Platform," said the company spokesperson.

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Verizon also has relationships with all three hyperscalers — AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure — for various uses, including MEC.

The company said today, “Verizon’s MEC is deployed in a rack next to its core network gear to enable the lowest possible latency. We are partnering with the top cloud partners, driving tighter network integration/differentiation through API’s. Verizon recently expanded its MEC ecosystem by bringing AWS Wavelength zones to Nashville and Tampa and now reaches 19 metro areas. This means that 75% of the U.S. population is now within 150 miles of Verizon 5G Edge.”

The Verizon spokesperson elaborated: "In 19 of the centralized locations where the vCUs run, there is also AWS equipment secured separately in the same facility."

In addition to advancing its vRAN, Verizon is working on other technologies for its network.

It is beginning to deploy 100 MHz of C-band spectrum in many markets across the U.S., a significant increase from the 60 MHz of spectrum it has deployed in 5G markets to date.

Verizon also said today, that disaggregating the hardware and software functions on the network through widespread virtualization creates the foundation for open RAN, which will allow for the mixing and matching of more equipment from different vendors.