Verizon, Samsung complete fully virtualised C-band 5G data session

Tech giant and US operator announce C-band trial that they say paves the way for a more programmable, efficient and scalable 5G network

Verizon has collaborated with Samsung Electronics to create an end-to-end, fully virtualised 5G data session over the key 5G frequency range in a live network environment. The operator said this is a technology milestone in preparation for its upcoming 5G Ultra Wideband expansion using its newly acquired C-band spectrum.

The trials, conducted over Verizon’s network – using C-band Special Temporary Authority granted to Verizon by the US Federal Communications Commission – in Texas, Connecticut and Massachusetts, used Samsung’s fully virtualised RAN (vRAN) system built on its own software stack and C-band 64T64R Massive MIMO radio in coordination with Verizon’s virtualised core. The trials achieved speeds commensurate with traditional hardware-based equipment.

The two companies see virtualisation as critical to delivering the services promised by advanced 5G networks. Key 5G use cases such as massive scale internet-of-things solutions, more robust consumer devices and systems, augmented and virtual reality, remote healthcare, autonomous robotics in manufacturing environments, and ubiquitous smart city technology, will heavily rely on the programmability of virtualised networks.

They said cloud native virtualised architecture leads to greater flexibility, faster delivery of services, greater scalability, and improved cost efficiency in networks, paving the way for wide-scale mobile edge computing and network slicing. This technology enables Verizon to rapidly respond to customers’ varied latency and computing needs. Virtualisation is seen as being able to lower the barrier to entry for new suppliers in the ecosystem.

Looking forward, the two companies believe new entrants will accelerate innovation, reduce operating costs and lay the groundwork for flexible network and cloud infrastructure closer to the customer, eventually leading to single-digit millisecond latency.

“We have been driving the industry to large-scale virtualisation using the advanced architecture we have built into our network from the core to the far edge,” said Adam Koeppe, senior vice-president of technology planning at Verizon. “This recent accomplishment paves the way for a more programmable, efficient and scalable 5G network. Customers deserve more than mere access to 5G. They deserve 5G built with the highest, gold-standard engineering practices that have positioned Verizon as the most reliable industry leader for years.”

Junehee Lee, executive vice-president and head of R&D, networks business at Samsung Electronics, added: “We are proud to mark another milestone following our first large-scale commercial 5G vRAN deployment for Verizon, which is currently servicing millions of users. This trial reinforces our commitment to helping operators evolve their advanced 5G networks. 

“This achievement represents our dedicated efforts in leading the transition to virtualisation, and helping Verizon realise greater efficiency, scalability and flexibility. vRAN is a powerful enabler for network transformation, and we aim to continue leading this journey.”

Massive MIMO reduces interference through beamforming, which directs the beam from the cell site directly to where the customer is located, resulting in higher and more consistent speeds for customers using apps and uploading and downloading files. The Verizon trial used Samsung’s C-band 64T64R Massive MIMO radios that support digital/dynamic beamforming, SU-MIMO, MU-MIMO and dual connectivity and carrier aggregation.

“Incorporating full, cloud-native virtualisation, Massive MIMO and beamforming into our network design and deployment will result in so much more than our customers merely seeing a 5G icon on their devices,” Koeppe added. “This is 5G service optimised for peak performance.”

In the first quarter of 2022, Verizon expects to put the new 5G C-band spectrum into service in the initial 46 markets and to provide 5G Ultra Wideband service to 100 million people. Over 2022 and 2023, coverage is expected to increase to more than 175 million people and by 2024 and beyond, when the remaining C-band spectrum is cleared, more than 250 million people are expected to have access to Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service on C-band spectrum.

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