Verizon VRAN velocity gains as fibre pushed to almost half of cell sites

Communications giant takes advantage of extensive fibre broadband network to support mobile infrastructure, which is seeing significant push into virtualised radio access network technology in cell sites

Verizon has revealed it has now deployed more than 8,000 cell sites using virtualised radio access network (VRAN) technology, connecting nearly 48% of its cell sites with its own deployed fibre optic cables – on track to reach about 50% by the end of 2022.

The telco believes the move to a cloud-based, virtualised architecture with standardised interfaces in every part of the network leads to greater flexibility, faster delivery of services, greater scalability, improved cost efficiency in networks, and greater flexibility and agility in the introduction of new products and services.

The company expects key 5G use cases focused on providing the best, most efficient network for customers will heavily rely on the programmability of virtualised networks. That means networks must serve internet of things devices that do very little networking and stay in place, smartphones with infinite opportunities to use data in a highly mobile environment, and complex offerings such as augmented reality that require large computing capabilities on the edge of the network.

These various network services rely on a correlated variety of resources from the network, which until recently have been defined rigidly and manually. Verizon said that by using orchestration and automation capabilities at scale on virtual infrastructure, it can automate network configuration changes and resource scaling dynamically based on demand. Building such programmability is said to be one of the greatest benefits of virtualising a network.

“We are building the network with the most advanced technology available, because we know people rely on our network and we are committed to delivering the variety and quality of services our customers need,” said Adam Koeppe, senior vice-president of planning and technology at Verizon. “Even while driving the most aggressive network deployment in our company’s history, we know giving people access to 5G is only part of the winning equation.”

As it was making its VRAN moves, the operator noted that fibre would play an essential role in its mobile connectivity play, enabling ultra-high capacity, speed and low latency data transfer for 4G LTE and 5G networks, and providing the backbone of IP and virtualised networks to streamline operations, reduce operating costs and improve agility for network providers, businesses and consumers alike.

In June 2022, Verizon announced that data traffic on its 5G Ultra Wideband network had already increased 249%, and it expects continued increases as more customers adopt the new technology. To meet that growing demand, Verizon is upgrading its fibre network by replacing older router equipment with new equipment capable of using 400 Gbps per port optical technology.

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When the overhaul of the fibre core network is complete, Verizon is confident that it will be able to manage 115 Tbps of data at any given moment. This equipment will be upgradeable to 230 Tbps in the coming years, providing scalability and increased reliability in its service. This upgrade will significantly increase the bandwidth needed to support wireless, home internet, enterprise and small businesses.

Verizon aims to provide backhaul fibre connection to about 50% of its cell sites by the end of 2022. It said that owning and operating the fibre that carries customer data from the cell site throughout the rest of the network allows the company to meet changing capacity needs rapidly, instantly control upgrades and repairs to fibre cables and electronics, as well as add security, control and reliability into network operations – all of which the firm said will be critical if it is to create the most reliable network for customers and provide the capacity and speeds needed now and into the future.

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