At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Aricent, Benetel, Phluido and Tech Mahindra are demonstrating a non-ideal mobile fronthaul solution for cable operators. The Disaggregated Network demonstration provides a first look at a virtualized LTE RAN reference solution that the respective partners, under the guidance of CableLabs and the TIP vRAN group, have developed for evaluation. The reference solution is designed to provide 4G RAN services over existing cable networks.
The Telecom Infra Project (TIP), launched in 2016, is a collaborative telecom community started with the goal of accelerating the pace of innovation in the telecom industry.
A DOCSIS cable network is susceptible to variations in delay and throughput in the data path. The reference solution relies on a functional split known as 3GPP Option 7-x and includes a combination of features including protocols for fronthaul. Enhancements to RAN Layer 1 and Layer 2 implementations from Phluido and Aricent are intended to allow cable operators to overcome common challenges with DOCSIS network, such as latency, jitter, and variable capacity to make it an effective means for fronthaul transport. In this way, cable operators can benefit from RAN virtualization and centralization, while reusing existing DOCSIS network infrastructure as transport.
Aricent is the lead software integrator in the initiative. The reference solution utilizes Aricent LTE RAN software framework based on cloud-RAN architecture. The solution has LTE Layer 3 and Layer 2 integrated with Phluido's virtualized Layer 1 and fronthaul protocols and compression, along with Benetel's Remote Radio Unit (RRU). The RRU provides a platform designed to support both 4G and 5G networks. Network equipment providers (NEPs) can monetize the reference solution supported on General Purpose Processor (GPP) and RRU to provide LTE solutions that leverage today's cable network and future advancements. Tech Mahindra carried out end-to-end vRAN integration and end-to-end network testing under varying fronthaul impairments and traffic conditions. Tech Mahindra carried out the tests in collaboration with communications service providers (CSPs).
"According to CableLabs, cable operators have boosted speeds drastically, and in 2018, 80% of households enjoyed gigabit a second speeds - that's up from 4% in 2016. To help cable operators compete more effectively in wireless space, our group created an easy to deploy solution that allows operators to deploy new services faster - using existing architecture. That provides them with a significant cost advantage - that's critical in ultra-competitive telecoms landscape," said N. Mohan Rangan, chief engineering officer at Aricent. "Deployed on the cloud, the solution can truly deliver the promise of 4G and 5G."
The RRUs, developed to support the functional Split 7-x, have a modular architecture with selectable features.
"We are extremely excited to participate in such a development ," said Adrian O'Connor, Benetel CEO. "This opportunity provides Benetel the chance to showcase a new line of innovative products and work alongside excellent partners and sponsors to deliver real market solutions."
"Phluido has been at the forefront of the RAN virtualization and open fronthaul interfaces since 2014," said Alan Barbieri, Phluido CEO. "We strongly believe that virtualization, disaggregation, and open interfaces are finally disrupting the traditional approach to deploy radio networks. The live reference design showcased at Mobile World Congress demonstrates such an advanced approach in a multi-vendor, disaggregated scenario over non-ideal fronthaul."
"As a trusted intermediary, we are truly excited to be the system integrator and the deployment partner for TIP's RAN ecosystem. Open, virtualized and dis-aggregated RAN will be an essential building block of the 5G network. Bringing the economies of cloud and automation to RAN significantly lowers the capex and opex. We are continually investing and collaborating with our partners to make vRAN solutions ready for large scale network deployments," said Manish Mangal, Tech Mahindra's Network Services CTO.