Corning and Intel team up for 5G indoor vRAN

Corning moves to Intel FlexRAN stack to virtualise in-building solution for 5G

Corning has adopted the Intel FlexRAN Reference Software architecture as its path forward to 5G and the virtual RAN. The two companies will work together to have an available, 5G vRAN product within 2020.

Corning, whose in-building cellular solution is built on the erstwhile SpiderCloud product, has said that it will virtualise its baseband in a vDU and vCU (adopting the O-RAN 7.2 split) based on Intel’s XEON-based FlexRAN architeture.

Corning’s existing in-building RAN architecture is slightly different to many other distributed radio methods. Rather than distribute an RF source to remote antennas, it deployed multiple, discreet radio nodes (small cells) that connected over Ethernet to a Services Node that controlled the radio nodes, applying functions like SON to manage potential interference between the deployed nodes. The Services Node then connected back to the mobile operator core over an IP connection.

The new architecture will see the radio nodes act as remote radio units, with the vDU sited at the Services Node location. The vCU can then be centralised at a point to suit the operator’s deployment model. Some may keep everything in the building and connect direct to the core over the S1 interface, others may centralise the vCU to leverage capacity across a number of sites.

Art King, Director of Enterprise Services at Corning, said, “We’ve looked into what needs to be done for 5G and have come to decision that the right approach for us is to virtualise the CU and DU code into a container on an Intel platform.

“We’re also taking advantage of Intel features in its FPGAs to accelerate certain functions that might otherwise bog down a processor. Even at mmWave speeds there are no performance issues passing traffic through the Intel server.”

The product will be available in 2020, according to Intel and Corning. Corning “held back” on its in-building 5G strategy, King said, until it understood operator requirements. “Big partners have stepped up and said this is what they want – and so we can follow those requirements step by step.” King could not mention partners but known public 4G customers have included Verizon, Sprint and, previously, Vodafone.

King said a benefit of the new approach is that instead of having a purpose built piece of hardware you deploy a server with multi-purpose compute to host edge computing applications as well as the vRAN software, in a scaleable approach.