At 2021 MWC LA, Samsung Electronics and Ciena announced that they are collaborating to deliver 5G solutions (?) by coupling Samsung’s 5G RAN and core network with Ciena’s xHaul routing and switching portfolio. The collaboration will enable the companies to offer hardware and software solutions to telecom operators to support the increasing volume of 5G data traffic at the edge and within an increasingly distributed 5G architecture.
Rafael Francis, senior director of solutions architecture at Ciena, sited the blurring between the RAN, transport and core network as motivation for the partnership with Samsung.
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“The domains of RAN, transport and core are becoming more tied in the sense as operators roll out 5G with new architectures and approaches, like virtualized RAN (vRAN) or cloud RAN (cRAN),” Francis told RCR Wireless News. “Effectively, the network becomes an integral part of that because you not only have backhaul networks, but you have fronthaul and mid-haul networks, and these things all need to interoperate.”
5G xHaul transport needs a solution-level approach that includes both a feature-rich box and a well-integrated automation and orchestration platform. Ciena provides a complete yet open solution with its innovative Adaptive IPTM portfolio, which is well integrated with its Blue Planet Automation software. The company has simplified the 5G xHaul transport with a lean and open set of IP protocols driven by analytics focused, multidomain and multivendor closed-loop orchestration layer.
Alok Shah, Samsung’s VP of strategy, business development and marketing for the company’s networks business, agreed with Francis, adding, “Networks used to be a lot easier to understand. The RAN and the core were well defined, and the transport was backhaul for the cell sites.”
Now, though, in the world of vRAN and cRAN, the backhaul is only one means of transport. There is also fronthaul and mid-haul and, according to Shah, each one has a different level of performance requirement; when it comes to the fronthaul, in particular, the link between fronthaul and the RAN equipment has to be “really tight.”
“Because, you want to make sure that if you’re running 25 Gbps from your radio back to baseband unit, you want to make sure you’re getting the full performance out of that link,” Shah added.
Further, the combined offering will help operators accelerate critical 5G capabilities such as network slicing (requires 5G SA Core network), which Francis singled out a perfect example of why coordination across network domains has become more critical in a 5G era.
“Concepts and capabilities brought by 5G such as network slicing that can be used to drive new revenues and services for MNOs (mobile network operators) must be well coordinated across RAN, transport and core to really have the correct impact like ensuring SLAs and partitioning resources,” Shah said.
Wonil Roh, SVP and head of product strategy for Samsung Electronics’ network business said, “In order to deliver more powerful 5G services, the current network architecture needs to evolve. Samsung’s ability to couple our best-in-class 5G solutions with a leader in transport technologies like Ciena will give customers a solution to address this need, and do so with the confidence to scale and evolve their networks to support the future of 5G.”
Dell’Oro Group VP Stefan Pongratz noted that the two vendors have no material overlap. “Ciena’s telecom equipment revenues are primarily driven by its optical transport and SP switch portfolio while Samsung focuses on the RAN and mobile core markets,” he said. Stefan added that “as the backhaul becomes fronthaul, the transport requirements will change, which could impact the value of pre-integrated solutions.”