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Intel, VMware broaden 5G collaboration across radio access network

Leading software and chip companies embark on a pre-integrated software platform for virtualised RAN designed to reduce development cycles for communications service providers

Aiming to accelerate the roll-out of both existing LTE and future 5G networks, Intel and VMware have announced that they have entered into a collaboration on an integrated software platform for virtualised radio access networks (RANs).

The companies say that as communications service providers (CoSPs) evolve their networks to support the roll-out of future 5G networks, they are increasingly adopting a software-defined, virtualised infrastructure. They add that virtualisation of the core network has already enabled CoSPs to improve operational costs and bring services to market more quickly.

Also, increasing numbers of CoSPs are embracing the idea of having open and disaggregated RAN architectures that can give them added flexibility and choice, as well as programmability to create and deploy new services that require fine-grained radio resource control and dynamic slicing to provide differentiated experiences such as cloud gaming and cloud-controlled robotics.

The Intel and VMware collaboration – an expansion of their existing relationship – aims to offer CoSPs reduced development cycles and scale across multiple designs, seeking to simplify the steps and reduce the integration effort involved in creating deployable virtualised RANs. The firms say they will work with a rich ecosystem, including telecom equipment manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers and RAN software suppliers, to help CoSPs build more easily on top of the vRAN platform to address specific use cases.

The partnership will see Intel and VMware collaborate on building programmable open interfaces based on Intel’s FlexRAN software reference architecture and a VMware RAN intelligent controller (RIC), to enable development of radio network functions using artificial intelligence and machine learning for real-time resource management, traffic steering and dynamic slicing. This, they say, will assist in optimised quality of experience (QoE) for roll-out of new 5G vertical use cases.

“Many CoSPs are choosing to extend the benefits of network virtualisation into the RAN for increased agility as they roll out new 5G services, but the software integration can be rather complex,” said Dan Rodriguez, corporate vice-president and general manager, network platforms group at Intel.

“With an integrated vRAN platform, combined with leading technology and expertise from Intel VMware, CoSPs are positioned to benefit from accelerated time to deployment of innovative services at the edge of their network.”

Shekar Ayyar, executive vice-president and general manager, telco and edge cloud at VMware, added: “As they look to extend their software-defined infrastructure out to the RAN, there are tremendous benefits [for CoSPs] to delivering all network functions on a single platform. With an integrated platform, CoSPs will be able to deploy new network functions across the same telco cloud architecture, from core to RAN, enabling the scale and agility needed to deliver services across a 5G network more efficiently.”

Intel and VMware are already working closely with CoSPs, as well as telecoms equipment manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers and RAN software suppliers, to accelerate their time to market as they deliver virtualised systems.

Deutsche Telekom is already testing a vRAN architected by VMware and Intel that is optimised for real-time, low-latency workloads. Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP strategy and technology innovation at Deutsche Telekom, said: “We are in the validation phase of our work on our vRAN platform deployment, which we believe can bring agility to RANs for both existing LTE and future 5G networks.”

Vodafone Group is also working with VMware to support its global roll-out of virtual network functions. Yago Tenorio, head of network architecture at Vodafone, said: “Seeing VMware and Intel work together to enhance the performance of general-purpose computing platforms to run uncompromised RAN workflows, and to help simplify the complexities of product integration, has the potential to ensure Open RAN matures more quickly.

“It is also an enabler for faster developments in the RIC area. This move is central to the Vodafone initial Open RAN vision of partners that excel in our area, as well as benefit the wider community.”

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