Verizon developing new vRAN architecture with Intel, Nokia

Verizon announced that it is developing a new virtualized Cloud RAN architecture, with the help of Nokia and Intel. Virtualized RAN enables operators to run baseband unit (BBU) functions on off-the-shelf hardware as virtualized network functions.

Verizon says vRAN systems will help reduce its capex and opex, provide scalable capacity and increase the number of users per cell, thereby lowering its costs per user. It will also enable continuous software delivery to Verizon’s mobile customers.

Verizon has partnered with Nokia and Intel for the project. The announcement follows a successful trial of Verizon’s vRAN 1.0 architecture in Oklahoma City, which used Nokia’s AirScale cloud base station server and Intel’s Xeon scalable processors.

AirScale is a hardware-agnostic virtual base station that runs on Verizon’s cloud platform. The three companies are now developing vRAN 2.0 architecture for Verizon, which the operator described as the next step in developing fully virtualized RAN.

“Verizon is committed to furthering innovation within the ecosystem by ensuring deployment flexibility,” said Bill Stone, VP of technology development and planning at Verizon, in a statement.

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The announcement is part of a wider initiative, first reported last year, to introduce more efficiencies and cost-savings into its wireless networks. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam announced the company is looking to cut $10 billion in costs by 2022, in part by introducing more virtualization in its network operations.

Verizon has been exploring vRAN and cloud RAN solutions over the past year. Verizon held vRAN trials with Ericsson, and it partnered with Cisco and Samsung for a slate of 5G trials that included Samsung’s virtualized RAN solutions.

In a separate statement at Mobile World Congress, Verizon announced it will be using Samsung’s remote radio heads and BBUs to support Verizon’s 4G LTE Open RAN initiative, which aims to prepare Verizon's networks for virtualized RAN and 5G commercialization.