Nokia and Elisa complete Europe’s first Cloud RAN trial

Leading Nordic operator and global comms tech provider come together to successfully conclude test of cloud-based radio access network powered by In-Line acceleration to maintain feature richness, energy efficiency and high-performance enabling flexibility

The Nordic region has a long and porous history of creating milestones in the development of mobile technologies, and in the latest episode of this story, Finnish tech firm Nokia has teamed with compatriot operator Elisa to announce what they say is the mobile industry’s first trial of Cloud RAN powered by In-Line acceleration.

The trial took place at Elisa’s headquarters in Finland and utilised its commercial 5G Standalone RAN and 5G Core. The partnership has seen In-Line acceleration realised in Elisa’s 5G network, which was the basis for successfully executing 5G data calls in Cloud RAN, with commercial 5G user equipment. This supports Elisa’s ambition to pioneer in bringing cloud networking benefits, such as scalability and agility, to Finnish customers with highly automated processes.

These first 5G data calls are said to mark a significant milestone in Elisa’s overall cloudification journey. As regards the latter, Elisa is pursuing a network programme which it considers a key area in sparking innovation and enhancing the scalability of network services. Cloudification is seen as being able to deliver higher levels of network automation, supporting the flexibility and agility of user service provisioning. The first commercial deployments are expected to occur over the next few years in Finland and will continue the cloudification evolution in core networks.

The trial took place in an over-the-air environment, using 100MHz cells on the n78 spectrum band (3.5GHz band), which globally is the most common 5G capacity band. Data calls were successfully performed with a selection of both test and commercial user devices. The trial followed a Nokia reference design with a cluster-as-a-service (CaaS) layer from Red Hat as well as an x86 server architecture.

The feature performance delivered by Nokia’s anyRAN approach enabled immediate interoperability with 5G user equipment and Elisa’s 5G core network. Nokia’s anyRAN is an open approach to building future-ready radio access networks together with an ecosystem of industry partners, a facet which the tech firm said unlocks a collaborative advantage. It is also designed to give mobile operators and enterprises more flexibility in their choice of cloud infrastructure software, hardware and technology suppliers.

Operators have the opportunity to evolve to Hybrid RAN with both Cloud RAN and purpose-built RAN deployments co-existing to deliver what Nokia said would be a consistent, high-quality performance. AnyRAN is said to have delivered to Elisa feature richness, energy efficiency and high performance of Cloud RAN compared with purpose-built RAN. Using In-Line layer 1 (L1) acceleration is said to ensure each of these aspects while enabling flexibility to select between x86 and ARM-based ecosystems.

“Elisa is a pioneer in automation and in introducing the benefits of network cloudification to Finnish customers. This first call using Cloud RAN is a remarkable milestone on our cloudification journey. After already taking the first steps in cloudifying the telco network core, this transformation is now also expanding towards the access network,” commented Markus Kinnunen, vice-president of cloud services at Elisa.

“The key benefits of Cloud RAN include the diverse network service platforms and scalability for different kinds of customer needs. In the future, we can provide more agile network services to our customers, whose network usage is transforming closer to the network edge.”

Mark Atkinson, head of RAN at Nokia, said: “This important trial with our long-term partner, Elisa, confirms the effectiveness and maturity of Nokia’s anyRAN approach and our open Cloud RAN architecture powered by In-Line L1 acceleration. Unlike other suppliers, we commit to feature parity between Cloud RAN and purpose-built RAN, and we ensure that our customers can flexibly evolve to Cloud RAN with choices in cloud infrastructure and data centre hardware. Nokia’s approach to Cloud RAN means we will partner with communication service providers (CSPs) and enterprises to drive efficiency, innovation, openness and scale in their RAN evolution.”

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