Nokia formally joins DSS crew, and announces new cloud RAN split

Nokia joins DSS gang, and introduces new cloud RAN split.

Nokia has announced a new round of updates to its flagship RAN platform. 

There are two upgrades it would like to draw your attention to. The first is that it has joined the ranks of vendors promising Dynamic Spectrum Sharing capability. In fact it had already announced in December that it would be doing this, but this is the commercialisation of that capability.

Nokia is slightly later to this 3GPP specified 5G NR feature, mainly because it was pushed through standards by Ericsson.  Comments this year from Neville Ray, T-Mobile CTO, that one of its vendors was behind in delivery of the feature, were commonly thought to have been identifying Nokia.

Ericsson’s Head of Radio Thomas Noren has also previously told TMN that Ericsson had an edge because its powerful baseband processing enabled it to manage the millisecond scheduling that is required to interleave 4G and 5G signals.

He said then, “This is very complicated scheduling to do. If you go back 18 months one of the other vendors said they had it and then they realised they didn’t, so then then they said, this is impossible. And now they say they will also have it again. So I think many thought that this was a very challenging thing to do but we have proven that it is possible.

“The others should speak for themselves but it seems like we have a very powerful baseband. This enables us to handle this kind of scheduling and avoids those overlaps in PRBs. I think this is an advantage for us. I’m sure others will do this but they have to answer, with which chipset have you tested this, can you do it in the frequency domain and can you do it per millisecond. If you cannot answer positively to all three, then I think you have an issue.”

In case you are unsure, DSS is essentially a very fast scheduling capability that enables 4G and 5G FDD signals (or other G’s too if you are ZTE) to share the same spectrum. That means that operators can deliver 5G in existing 4G spectrum, and it’s especially useful as a 5G coverage play – as operators can get 5G signals through in lower bands, meaning they don’t have to wait for new 5G lowband spectrum to come along. It can also be aggregated with other 5G bands. However, despite what tend to be very positive noises from vendors and the device chip makers, it’s not a panacea and there are trade offs in performance.

Edge Cloud RAN

The second thing Nokia has done is announce an “All-In-Cloud” version of its Airscale radio. This new cloudification introduces an architectural split for a cloud RAN version of its Airscale base station technology that puts the vBBU at the network edge. Nokia said this cloud version “virtualises real-time baseband and puts the baseband processing power at the edge of the network to meet extremely low-latency requirements.” That sounds like quite a distributed – ie higher layer – split, but we are confirming with Nokia. 

The vendor said it would be moving to a more decomposed version in the near future. Its statement said, “Nokia Bell Labs is currently demonstrating a prototype of the next evolutionary step of this domain to customers, the Nokia AirScale Cloud-native RAN. This will implement the characteristics of a cloud-native environment, allowing a flexible decomposition of RAN into a service-based architecture. This will be supported by an edge infrastructure and a chipset from Nokia’s “Powered by ReefShark” portfolio as well as a choice of central processing units (CPU) and graphics processing units (GPU), boosting the 5G network performance even further.”