Verizon touts efficiencies achieved with Intel-Samsung vRAN

Verizon is pleased with the efficiencies it can achieve with Intel’s latest processing technology combined with Samsung’s virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) solution.

In a trial conducted October 25 in Dallas, Verizon observed “meaningful” power efficiency gains, the ability to manage higher workloads and higher throughput performance. The data session, which is being billed as an industry first, used Intel’s new 4th Generation Xeon Scalable processor with Intel vRAN Boost on Samsung’s vRAN solution.

“As customers continue to increase their data usage and use our network in different ways, it is critical to continue to drive efficiencies to provide the best possible performance at the most efficient cost,” said Adam Koeppe, SVP of Technology Planning at Verizon, in a statement. “As we continue to roll out virtualized cell sites and expand our 5G service, the use of this advanced processor will have tangible benefits for us as network operators and for our customers in how our network serves their needs.”

The operator pointed out that Intel’s newest vRAN processor supports the additional bandwidth of C-band spectrum that Verizon is incorporating into its network.

The Intel processor’s capacity improvement provides the ability to consolidate more workloads onto a single server, a task that was previously accomplished with multiple servers. Verizon said it also provides an open processing platform to add innovative new features, optimizations and services without requiring a hardware upgrade.

Significance for vRAN 

Joe Madden, founder and chief analyst at Mobile Experts, said this trial is an important step for vRAN, as it’s the first real deployment of the new Sapphire Rapids processor from Intel. The new processor integrates acceleration and improves energy efficiency compared with the previous generation, he said.

“Verizon is significantly ahead of AT&T and T-Mobile along these lines, but according to my forecast there will be plenty of time for the other operators to conduct their own pilot deployments before new spectrum creates an opportunity for nationwide deployment,” he told Fierce via email.

The benefit for Verizon is a little indirect, as the “cloudification” of the radio network doesn’t directly change the service for enterprise customers, he said. However, “in the long run, having everything running on cloud servers will make Verizon more agile for enterprise applications and edge computing,” he added.

Stefan Pongratz, VP at Dell’Oro Group, agreed it’s good news for the cloud RAN/vRAN movement.

“In addition to timing and buy-in with the established players, cost and performance parity with purpose-built RAN for both NB and WB deployments is going to be pivotal for vRAN to scale beyond the early adopters,” he told Fierce.

Though it’s not clear exactly how much of a boost was produced here, “any incremental power savings or cost efficiency improvements will help to narrow the gap with traditional systems and move the industry forward in this journey to re-shape the RAN,” Pongratz said.