A week of Open RAN and Cloud news

What did you miss in the Open RAN and telco cloud during MWC?

The most recent Inside TMN Newsletter shared a round-up of Open RAN and Telco Cloud news from the week of Mobile World Congress.

The TMN newsletter goes out every Friday and we’re sharing these excerpts from last Friday to bring everyone up to speed with a very busy week.

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Open RAN round up

1. Qualcomm new Du accelerator an small cell chip

Qualcomm announced some more details about its ORAN platform releases it has lined up for 2022. It said that it will be producing an accelerator as a plug-in for the O-RAN Distributed Unit (O-DU). The DU is the lower layer PHY function that handles very intensive processing such as Massive MIMO coding (Forward Error Correction) and beam forming & channel management etc. Qualcomm is adopting an in-line accelerator architecture, not “look-aside”, which it says is more suited to this sort of process.

Additionally, the chip giant said it would have a 5G version of its FSM small cell chipset available in 2022 – incorporating some R16 features and supporting vRAN split options for small cells. The series is known as the FSM200xx.

2. NEC’s massive MIMO
Hard-charging NEC launched what it termed “carrier-grade, cloud-native Open RAN software supporting digital beamforming of Massive MIMO.”

The m-MIMO software controls digital beamforming over 16 downlink layers and supports O-RAN specifications.

In addition, NEC also launched a RAN Domain Orchestration solution from its subsidiary Netcracker. The solution combines Netcracker’s orchestration, OSS and analytics functions with NEC’s network operation and management to automate the RAN domain. It’s based on Netcracker’s Digital OSS, running on a Kubernetes, with APIs enabling collaboration with products from different Open RAN vendors.

3. NTT DoCoMo Open RAN white paper
NTT DOCOMO released a whitepaper on the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem, a collaboration with 12 partners toward verifying vRAN performance and providing Open RAN to operators worldwide.

4. Mavenir automates Open RAN
L&T Technology Services is going to deliver 5G automation services to Mavenir.

The automation services will include Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) automation of the 5G ORAN portfolio of RU/DU/CU products, in conjunction with the Cloud Native 5G NSA and SA core network products, for global frequency bands supporting TDD and FDD technology.

Automation of Cloud RAN and Open RAN workloads is of course a key enabler for the technology, with Rakuten, for example, recently investing in its provider robin.io.

5. CapGemini tribute to Marconi
Capgemini’s Marconi Projecti is developing RIC (Radio intelligent Controller) functionality on Intel Architecture, and they have just released a Machine Learning-based RAN application for 5G spectrum optimisation.

The Project combines CapGemini’s NetAnticipate5G: AI Platform with its RATIO O-RAN RIC platform.

“Project Marconi”, as it is known, is an intelligent 5G L2 MAC scehduler, providing real-time predictive analytics to the 5G Medium Access Control (MAC) scheduler.

The AI powered predictive analytical solution forecasts and assigns the appropriate MCS (modulation and coding scheme) values for signal transmission through forecasting of the user signal quality and mobility patterns accurately. The RAN can intelligently schedule MAC resources to achieve up to 40% more accurate MCS prediction and yield to 15% better spectrum efficiency in the case studies and testing.

6. Vodafone Dell
Vodafone is going to use Dell servers as the hardware layer of its O-RAN network in the UK.

Vodafone will deploy Dell EMC PowerEdge servers at base station locations with an initial focus on the 2,500 sites in the UK it is swapping over from Huawei to Open RAN software from Samsung. Vodafone will use ruggedized servers to support Open RAN applications and tackle the demands of data-intensive workloads at the edge.

7. Google joins O-RAN Alliance

Google Cloud is joining the O-RAN ALLIANCE.

8. Mavenir and Movandi
Movandi, which designs 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) technology is now in a “strategic collaboration” with Mavenir, to provide its BeamX 5G mmWave technology for the recently announced 5G mmWAVE Open Radio Access Network (RAN) smart city in Thailand.

Mavenir’s Open RAN radio units (RU) for the smart city private network include Movandi’s mmWave RF ICs and phased array modules (PAM).

9. Fujitsu and TIP Open RAN radios
Fujitsu is in with Telecom Infra Project (TIP) – contributing its 5G O-RAN radios to the TIP OpenRAN project group.

The dual-band and tri-band radios are certified by Fujitsu and listed on the TIP Exchange marketplace.

10. DT switches on O-RAN Town
DT has gone live with its O-RAN pilot network – known as O-RAN town.

For the first live sites, the remote radio units (O-RU) are provided by Fujitsu and NEC, including Fujitsu’s LTE and 5G NR O-RUs  and NEC’s 32T32R 5G massive MIMO (mMIMO) radio units (RU). Mavenir provides the baseband DU-CU software. That vRAN baseband is running on servers from Dell and Supermicro. It’s all built on Intel FlexRAN software architecture.

Deutsche Telekom plans to expand O-RAN Town in phases across 2021 and 2022, working with different sets of vendors.

11. Orange’s experimental new network 
Orange has launched its “network of the future” pilot for real. It’s a 5G Standalone network with an Open RAN access layer and a 5G SA Core, and it’s instrumented with the ability to automate slice management functions and orchestration.

Attendees to this webinar that TMN held will have heard Orange give an exclusive sneak peek at some of the trial’s set-up and its slicing use cases.

The experimental network is to act as a blue-print for the next generation of an automated, zero touch, AI-led network. But Orange did say in a briefing call with journalists not to read too much across in terms of vendor selection. (The operator is about to announce its 5G core network vendors for its live, production network).

That said the partners for the experimental network include Mavenir for cloud 5G Open RAN, Casa Systems for cloud 5G SA core network, Hewlett Packard Enterprise for Cloud 5G SA Subscriber Data Management, Dell Technologies for infrastructure and servers and Xiaomi for devices.

The Open RAN and core function on a single Kubernetes-based infrastructure, managed by Orange. From July, the network will start using and testing O-RAN radio equipment ND CNFs on a cloud infrastructure, network data collection and AI automation.

12. Axiata and Mavenir and Parallel
Axiata said it had launched Open RAN commercial pilots in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The trials include the first commercial deployment of TIP’s Evenstar Split 7.2. Radio Unit (RU) architecture, as part of an Open RAN network that has been deployed with satellite backhaul.

Mavenir and Parallel Wireless are both involved. Mavenir has its MAVair Open vRAN solutions including Packet Core at selected sites in Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The sites selected are connected with non-ideal backhaul (microwave links), and in some cases satellite, to fully test out the rural deployment scenario.

And it includes the first commercial service integration of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP)’s Evenstar 4G Radio.

With Parallel Wireless, Axiata demonstrated commercial deployment of 2G and 4G Open RAN connectivity in Sri Lanka. The commercial sites include 3-, 4-, and 6-Sector operation.

13. stc and Rakuten again
On the sidelines of MWC conference, stc signed a memorandum of understanding with Rakuten to expand global partnerships to promote emerging technologies. The cooperation includes developing an independent digital platform that provides cloud communication services and networks and options for deploying OpenORAN access networks – and developing new applications and business models.

stc has also signed agreements of understanding with its global partners Altiostar and Mavenir to work on the open environment ORAN.

In the Cloud

1. Holy or wholly public cloud? AT&T and Azure
After its Domain 2.0 work and its delivery of its automated OSS and network OS into ONAP and continued contributions there, AT&T shocked the market this week with the news that it is moving its 5G SA Core network to Azure, moving people and IP to Microsoft in the process.

The news came just as the role of public cloud in telco achieved new prominence thanks in part to the role of TelcoDR at MWC21, as well as the expanded presence of the likes of AWS in the virtual exhibition.

Microsoft is acquiring AT&T’s carrier-grade Network Cloud platform technology, which AT&T’s 5G core network runs on. AT&T’s Network Cloud platform has been running AT&T’s 5G core at scale since the company launched 5G in 2018. This move brings real-world production 5G workloads to Azure for Operators. The Network Cloud platform engineering team will receive offers to join Microsoft.

Microsoft will assume responsibility for both software development and deployment of AT&T’s Network Cloud immediately and bring AT&T’s existing network cloud to Azure over the next three years.

The operator told Mobile World Live that the agreement “does not necessarily mean we are running on public cloud the way we understand today… We are extending Azure into the operator premise.”

“We are distributing our network much closer to customers to run applications and services that can unleash immersive experiences”, Igal Elbaz, SVP of Wireless and Access Technology, said. “The idea is a hybrid cloud platform which rides on public cloud as well as operator premises.”

2. Ericsson and Google and TIM
With discussions ongoing about the public cloud, and how traditional vendors will react (never mind traditional service providers), Google Cloud and Ericsson announced a partnership to jointly develop 5G and edge cloud solutions.

They are working together at Ericsson’s Silicon Valley D15 Labs and say they have already completed functional onboarding of Ericsson 5G on Anthos to enable telco edge and on-premise use cases.

As part of the partnership, Google Cloud and Ericsson are also piloting enterprise applications at the edge on a live network with TIM. That project will automate the functions of TIM’s core 5G network and cloud-based applications, using TIM’s Telco Cloud infrastructure, Google Cloud solutions, and Ericsson’s 5G core network and orchestration technologies.

3. AWS virtual village – NEC/Netcracker

Participating in AWS’ virtual stage at MWC21, along with the likes of Amdocs, Nokia, Altiostar, Mavenir and others, NEC and Netcracker said they have deployed their 5G Core and full stack Digital BSS/OSS on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to orchestrate and automate 5G digital services.

In the demonstration, NEC deployed its 5G Core control plane on an AWS Region and its 5G UPF on an AWS Outposts’ edge location. The edge location is connected to the AWS Local Zone where applications are hosted. 5G services and network slices can be ordered on-demand from Netcracker’s Digital Marketplace, and its orchestration systems dynamically place the 5G workloads and applications in the appropriate AWS Local Zone.

NEC and Netcracker have the ability to run their applications on private or public cloud environments (on premises, edge or centralised).

4. GSMA’s Telco Edge Cloud requirements
This week GSMA published its Telco Edge Cloud Requirements document, something that over 40 operators and 25 vendor partners contributed to – work that encompassed 100+ calls over seven months, according to DT’s David Gannon, who Chairs the GSMA Telco Edge Cloud initiative.

In a LinkedIn post, Gannon said that the the document describes the key interface requirements for developers to consistently host their load applications (store, compute, AI, …) at the edges of fixed and mobile networks.  It also describes the federation obligations that allows loads to follow customers into different networks.

The next steps are to turn these requirements into solutions, “for sure by the traditional standards routes of ETSI and 3GPP, but also in parallel by the open source & reference implementation route, as Developers really need to see cloud native APIs to Operator assets.”

“Trials are ongoing between Operators and Platform developers and we anticipate full blown solutions early next year,” Gannon said.

Press release here.

5. KDDI, DT, MobilEdgeX and others

KDDI announced its work with Deutsche Telekom, MobiledgeX, visual positioning service developer Sturfee and AR-streaming company Mawari. The companies have collaborated on the first global Platform as a Service (PaaS) for XR application development at the edge. The proof of concept is being launched in alignment with GSMA’s Telco Edge Cloud (TEC) initiative (see above).

The collaboration will design a Visual Positioning Service (VPS) provided by Sturfee that is compatible with the MobiledgeX Edge-Cloud platform and deploy it as a PaaS to KDDI and Deutsche Telekom’s MEC network.

6. Verizon and Red Hat

Verizon has chosen IBM and Red Hat to build and deploy an open hybrid cloud platform with automated operations and service orchestration for its 5G core.

Verizon said it “is evolving to an open, cloud-native, containerised webscale platform”.

IBM Global Business Services is also integrating Telco Network Cloud solutions into Verizon’s Service Orchestration Platform. This integration is designed to improve the service quality, predictably and automation of virtual network functions and comply with Open Network Automation Platform interfaces.

7. Nvidia platform for 5G and edge
NVIDIA announced extended support for Arm-based CPUs – with the NVIDIA Aerial A100 AI-on-5G platform.

OEMs can offer servers running Arm-based CPUs and NVIDIA AI Enterprise software with Aerial 5G. Nvidia said these would “create a simplified path to building and deploying self-hosted vRAN that converges AI and 5G capabilities across private enterprises, network equipment companies, software makers and telecommunications services providers.”

The platform will incorporate 16 Arm Cortex-A78 processors with the NVIDIA BlueField-3 A100. BlueField-3 A100 is NVIDIA’s extensive AI software library and Aerial 5G SDK for enterprise AI projects.

8. Accedian on VMWare

Accedian is working with VMware to deploy its Skylight performance analytics solution with VMware’s Telco Cloud Platform.