Rakuten Mobile and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) have completed a three year R&D project that targeted the commercial deployment of a 5G stand-alone (SA) network using virtualised network functions, general-purpose hardware and cloud technology.
The work explored radio access network (RAN) slicing, as well as performance improvement and extension of network functionality.
The companies claimed that results showed that CAPEX and OPEX can be reduced by 30% or more “compared to conventional mobile networks requiring dedicated hardware and software”.
The operator said it plans to introduce this technology for its own commercial 5G stand-alone mobile networks in the future. It wil also commercialise the technology through its subsidiary company Rakuten Symphony.
NEDO aims to develop technologies that will form a core part of post-5G networks. To contribute, Rakuten Mobile launched a research and development project in July 2020 under the theme of “Research and development into virtualised 5G radio access equipment”.
That meant developing of fully virtualised 5G radio access equipment using general-purpose hardware and cloud technology for 5G stand-alone mobile networks. The company also tested the implementation of RAN network slicing and performance improvements such as lower latency, dense device connectivity and higher speeds.
Rakuten Mobile said that its work showed that more than three times the number of connected devices can be supported compared to Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks by managing the overheads (increases in processing burden) caused by cloud platforms and software processing.
The company completed an end-to-end connection test on a fully virtualized 5G stand-alone network from RAN to core network, using 5G stand-alone supported devices and Rakuten Mobile’s 5G stand-alone network. In addition, in order to improve operational efficiency during commercial deployment, Rakuten Mobile developed a platform to automate everything from RAN construction to operations, and maintenance.
In collaboration with NEDO’s commissioned project “5G slicing orchestration advancement technology using AI,” it also carried out development of RAN network slicing functionality, building a system linking an NEC intrusion detection system equipped with video analysis technology, to RAN network slicing functionality running on the 5G stand-alone network. The results showed the RAN network slicing function expanded the 5G wireless bandwidth in real-time at the time of intrusion detection, enabling video monitoring to be performed with higher image quality and less latency than at normal times.
Rakuten also said that it expanded the number of cells that can be connected per virtualised Central Unit (vCU), enabling more than three times the number of connected devices compared with LTE networks. In addition, during Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) stabiliser testing, by arranging the TCP stabilizer at the optimum position in a virtualized environment, Rakuten Mobile verified the stabilization of end-to-end TCP communication traffic by multiple terminals and improvement in overall throughput.