Ericsson has announced an expansion of its successful and long-standing partnership with Google Cloud to develop an Ericsson Cloud RAN solution on Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) [1.] that offers integrated automation and orchestration and leverages AI/ML for additional communications service providers (CSP) benefits. The companies have successfully demonstrated the full implementation of the Ericsson vDU and vCU on GDC Edge and the solution is running live in the Ericsson Open Lab in Ottawa, Canada, with joint ambition for market development.
Note 1. GDC is a portfolio of fully managed hardware and software solutions which extends Google Cloud’s infrastructure and services to the edge and into your data centers.
Deploying Ericsson Cloud RAN on GDC Edge enables the delivery of a fully automated and very large-scale distributed cloud, resulting in an efficient, reliable, highly performant and secured software centric radio access network infrastructure. In this setup, the on-premises GDC Edge is managed using functions such as fleet management from the public cloud through a dedicated secure connection between on-prem hardware and the cloud, while also addressing sovereignty and privacy requirements of the CSP customers. This architecture ensures the clear path for CSPs toward the implementation of a fully hybrid cloud solution for RAN.
Cloud RAN comprises a mobile switching center, a BBU hotel and a remote radio head
C-RAN networks comprise three primary components:
- A BBU hotel. This is a centralized site that functions as a data or processing center. Individual units can stack together without direct linkage or interconnect to dynamically allocate resources based on network needs. Communication between units has high bandwidth and low latency.
- A remote radio unit (RRU) network. Also known as a remote radio head, an RRU is a traditional network that connects wireless devices to access points.
- A fronthaul or transport network. Also known as a mobile switching center, a fronthaul or transport network is the connection layer between a BBU and a set of RRUs that use optical fiber, cellular or mmWave communication.
Running Ericsson Cloud RAN on GDC Edge will enable CSPs to utilize Google Cloud Vertex AI, BigQuery and other cloud services, to improve the usability of the massive data sets being provided by Cloud RAN applications. This in turn, will open a number of opportunities for CSPs to control, inspect, configure, and optimize their RAN infrastructure.
Ericsson Cloud RAN provides CSPs additional choice for creating networks based on open standards and interfaces using multiple vendors. The Ericsson Cloud RAN solution is infrastructure agnostic, allowing RAN applications to be deployed on any infrastructure chosen by the CSP. Ericsson is continuously collaborating with ecosystem partners and adapting its Cloud RAN applications to work on different infrastructures and configurations.
To further a cloud-native automation approach to network workloads, Ericsson and Google Cloud are jointly enhancing the solution through the Linux Foundation open-source project Nephio (a Kubernetes-based automation platform for deploying and managing highly distributed, interconnected workloads such as 5G network functions), where we jointly drive standardization of critical functionality.
Mårten Lerner, Head of Product Line Cloud RAN, Ericsson, says: “This partnership enables us to deepen and expand our valuable collaboration with Google Cloud, and it opens new opportunities for operators to utilize the benefits of cloud-native solutions and automation. Ericsson remains committed to ensuring the adaptability of its Cloud RAN applications on diverse cloud infrastructures, offering operators enhanced flexibility and choice in deploying Cloud RAN as well as supporting the evolving hybrid cloud architectures together with Google Cloud.”
Gabriele Di Piazza, Senior Director, Telecom Products, Google Cloud, says:
“We’re proud to enable Ericsson Cloud RAN to run on Google Distributed Cloud Edge infrastructure, which includes access to our AI/ML capabilities as well as cloud-native automations. We’re delighted to recognize Ericsson as a distinguished Google Cloud Partner and look forward to a continued strong partnership in support of our mutual customers.”
Cloud RAN with Google Distributed Cloud Edge; Strategy: host network functions of other vendors on Google Cloud
Omdia and Ericsson on telco transitioning to cloud native network functions (CNFs) and 5G SA core networks
Ericsson and O2 Telefónica say they have conducted the first demonstration of 5G Cloud RAN (Radio Access Network) [1.] technology in Europe. The Proof of Concept (PoC) deployment at O2 Telefónica’s Wayra innovation hub in Munich utilized a centralized control unit (CU) and harnessed the power of mmWave frequency to achieve an impressive end-to-end speed of more than 4 Gbit/s. The companies validated the use of Cloud RAN for fixed wireless access (FWA), as well as enterprise and industrial use cases.
One FWA case is “Data Shower,” a new concept in the automotive industry that enables the efficient deployment of software updates to vehicles in production lines by using mmWave technology for high-bandwidth transfer.
Note 1. A cloud radio access network (Cloud RAN) is a centralized, cloud computing-based architecture for radio access networks. It enables large-scale deployment, collaborative radio technology support and real-time virtualization capabilities.
Ericsson Cloud RAN is a cloud-native software solution handling compute functionality in the RAN. Cloud RAN is a viable option for communications service providers to have increased flexibility, faster delivery of services, and greater scalability in networks. Ericsson Cloud RAN is enhanced with support for 5G mid-band and with Cloud RAN for high performance in combined footprint. More information is below.
By implementing Ericsson’s cloud-native software solution for 5G Cloud RAN, O2 Telefónica in Germany will experience significant gains in flexibility, service delivery and improved network operations. This initiative also sets the stage for other communication service providers (CSPs) to leverage network automation and RAN programmability, thereby enhancing their overall network flexibility, scalability, and simplification.
Daniel Leimbach, Head of Customer Unit Western Europe at Ericsson, says: “The partnership between Ericsson and O2 Telefónica demonstrates our commitment to achieving significant breakthroughs on our path to build the networks of the future. It is a first for both companies in Europe and shows the potential of Cloud RAN for high performance use cases. It builds upon our work with the cloud-native 5G core we have deployed in O2 Telefónica Germany, enabling a full end-to-end cloud native network. We are very proud to be doing this together with O2 Telefónica.”
Mallik Rao, Chief Technology & Information Officer of O2 Telefónica, says: ” O2 Telefónica is a pioneer in deploying new network technologies such as Cloud RAN. With the introduction of a cloud-based, standardized architecture, we are able to respond quickly to customer needs, introduce new products and services even more flexibly and scale our O2 network better. With Cloud RAN, we combine the benefits of open interfaces with the expertise and product quality of European network equipment supplier Ericsson, whose technology we already use for our high-performance 5G core network.”
Cloud-native deployment plays a pivotal role in the transformation of the telecommunications industry, and the integration of cloud-native architecture into the radio access network (RAN) presents an exceptional opportunity to foster innovation and enhance network efficiency. By virtualizing the RAN and adopting a cloud-native, standardized architecture, O2 Telefónica will gain the ability to respond rapidly to customer needs, introduce new products and services with greater flexibility and agility, and realize benefits such as faster service delivery, improved scalability and enhanced cost efficiency.
Ericsson’s commitment to advancing telecommunications networks is underscored by this collaboration and builds upon the company’s successful Cloud RAN deployments with other leading CSPs in North America and Australia.
The incorporation of Cloud RAN extends the foundation of the ongoing network cloudification efforts by Ericsson and O2 Telefónica in Germany.
Technology overview: Benefits:
Ericsson 5G Cloud RAN, a cloud-native software solution, effectively handles compute functionality in the RAN, offering a range of benefits for CSPs, including the advantage of implementing common operational systems and practices, simplifying deployment and life cycle management of resources for enhanced efficiency. By centralizing processing and management functions, Cloud RAN transforms traditional network architecture to improve resource allocation, scalability and network management. This innovation empowers mobile network operators to dynamically allocate resources, optimizing performance and ensuring a seamless user experience.
Millimeter Wave (mmWave) frequency operates in the high-frequency range, typically above 24 gigahertz (GHz). This spectrum offers immense bandwidth potential, enabling data transfer at unprecedented speeds. By leveraging mmWave, telecommunications companies can deliver ultra-fast internet connections, supporting a wide range of applications such as 5G networks, virtual reality, augmented reality, and high-definition video streaming. With its ability to transmit vast amounts of data over short distances, mmWave frequency paves the way for the realization of futuristic technologies that demand low latency and exceptional performance.
At MWC 2023 Barcelona, Google Cloud announced that they can now run the radio access network (RAN) functions as software on Google Distributed Cloud Edge, providing communications service providers (CSPs- AKA telcos) with a common and agile operating model that extends from the core of the network to the edge, for a high degree of programmability, flexibility, and low operating expenses. CSPs have already embraced open architecture, open-source software, disaggregation, automation, cloud, AI and machine learning, and new operational models, to name a few. The journey started in the last decade with Network Functions Virtualization, primarily with value added services and then deeper with core network applications, and in the past few years, that evolved into a push towards cloud-native. With significant progress in the core, the time for Cloud RAN is now, according to Google. However, whether for industry or region-specific compliance reasons, data sovereignty needs, or latency or local data-processing requirements, most of the network functions deployed in a mobile or wireline network may have to follow a hybrid deployment model where network functions are placed flexibly in a combination of both on-premises and cloud regions. RAN, which is traditionally implemented with proprietary hardware, falls into that camp as well.
In 2021,the company launched Google Distributed Cloud Edge (GDC Edge), an on-premises offering that extends a consistent operating model from our public Google Cloud regions to the customer’s premises. For CSPs, this hybrid approach makes it possible to modernize the network, while enabling easy development, fast innovation, efficient scale and operational efficiency; all while simultaneously helping to reduce technology risk and operational costs. GDC Edge became generally available in 2022.
Google Cloud does not plan to develop its own private wireless networking services to sell to enterprise customers, nor does the company plan to develop its own networking software functions, according to Gabriele Di Piazza, an executive with Google Cloud who spoke at MWC 2023 in Barcelona. Instead, Google Cloud would like to host the networking software functions of other vendors like Ericsson and Mavenir in its cloud. It would also like to resell private networking services from operators and others.
Rather than develop its own cloud native 5G SA core network or other cloud networking software (like Microsoft and AWS are doing), Google Cloud wants to “avoid partner conflict,” Di Piazza said. Google has been building its telecom cloud story around its Anthos platform. That platform is directly competing against the likes of AWS and Microsoft for telecom customers. According to a number of analysts, AWS appears to enjoy an early lead in the telecom industry – but its rivals, like Google, are looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage. One of Google’s competitive arguments is that it doesn’t have aspirations to sell network functions. Therefore, according to Di Piazza, the company can remain a trusted, unbiased partner.
Image Credit: Google Cloud
Last year, the executive said that moving to a cloud-native architecture is mandatory, not optional for telcos, adding that telecom operators are facing lots of challenges right now due to declining revenue growth, exploding data consumption and increasing capital requirements for 5G. Cloud-native networks have significant challenges. For example, there is a lack of standardization among the various open-source groups and there’s fragmentation among parts of the cloud-native ecosystem, particularly among OSS vendors, cloud providers and startups.
In recent years, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle and other cloud computing service providers have been working to develop products and services that are specifically designed to allow telecom network operator’s to run their network functions inside a third-party cloud environment. For example, AT&T and Dish Network are running their 5G SA core networks on Microsoft Azure and AWS, respectively.
Matt Beal, a senior VP of software development for Oracle Communications, said his company offers both a substantial cloud computing service as well as a lengthy list of network functions. He maintains that Oracle is a better partner for telecom network operators because of it. Beal said Oracle has long offered a wide range of networking functions, from policy control to network slice management, that can be run inside its cloud or inside the cloud of other companies. He said that, because Oracle developed those functions itself, the company has more experience in running them in a cloud environment compared with a company that hasn’t done that kind of work. Beal’s inference is that network operators ought to partner with the best and most experienced companies in the market. That position runs directly counter to Google’s competitive stance on the topic. “When you know how these things work in real life … you can optimize your cloud to run these workloads,” he said.
While a number of other telecom network operators have put things like customer support or IT into the cloud, they have been reluctant to release critical network functions like policy control to a cloud service provider.
On the eve of MWC 2023 in Barcelona, Nokia today announced that it has signed go-to-market agreements with the world’s leading cloud infrastructure and server providers giving mobile network operators and enterprises flexibility in their choice of hardware, cloud infrastructure, and data center solutions for running Cloud RAN. To support this Nokia has also announced the launch of anyRAN, a new concept to help mobile operators and enterprises extend their options for building and evolving their radio access networks. Nokia’s approach supports the evolution of today’s purpose-built networks to Cloud RAN and hybrid solutions, ensuring performance consistency across all network environments.
anyRAN was introduced by Nokia’s President of Mobile Networks Tommi Uitto at the Intercontinental Hotel in Barcelona, Spain.
Image Credit: Nokia
The Collaborative Advantage: Nokia launches anyRAN:
Nokia anyRAN is designed to help mobile operators and enterprises extend their options for building and evolving their radio access networks. The software can run on any partner’s Cloud and Server infrastructure in addition to Nokia AirScale base stations and Nokia AirFrame servers. This approach removes the complexity from deployments by allowing a mix of purpose-built, hybrid, and fully Cloud-based RAN solutions, enabling deep multi-level disaggregation at the Cloud Infrastructure layer and data center (server) hardware layer. Close collaboration with partners also ensures performance consistency of Cloud RAN with Nokia’s field-proven purpose-built RAN.
Future-ready performance: Cloud RAN SmartNIC for anyRAN:
Underpinning these high-performance solutions is the Nokia Cloud RAN SmartNIC, a Layer 1 (fronthaul) In-Line acceleration card that integrates seamlessly with all leading Cloud or server infrastructures. L1 acceleration needs specialized silicon with extreme computing capacity, which is beyond the capabilities of general-purpose processors. Nokia Cloud RAN SmartNIC uses dedicated and optimized silicon technology, which is more energy efficient and provides higher performance. Nokia and its partners have already successfully performed end-to-end 5G data calls (Layer 3 calls) in multi-vendor setups powered by Nokia’s solution.
Nokia 5G Cloud RAN:
While Nokia’s AnyRAN solution offers deep multi-level vertical disaggregation, Nokia also continues to serve the mobile operator and enterprise market with its optimized Nokia AirFrame OpenEdge server family. Benefitting from the SmartNIC, the enhanced AirFrame Open Edge server delivers a 50 percent performance boost compared to the system shown at Mobile World Congress 2022. Nokia’s solutions offer network performance consistency between purpose-built AirScale baseband and Cloud RAN and secures the best possible feature performance parity, with the fastest time-to-market for cloud/hybrid networks.
Sue Rudd, Director Networks and Service Platforms at TechInsights: “As service providers evolve on the path towards disaggregated RAN, Nokia’s anyRAN offers them a solution with standard O-RAN fronthaul and 3GPP midhaul interfaces under seamless control that can operate across multiple Cloud partner data centers. Combined with acceleration from a new Layer 1 SMARTNIC and a ‘host neutral’ Container as a Service (CaaS) layer for DU and CU processing, this flexible open approach will allow operators to leverage Nokia’s powerful new ecosystem of platform and cloud partners to deliver very cost effective, high performance Cloud RAN service.”
Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia: “The strength of our industry partnerships and the launch of anyRAN unlocks more choice and higher performance in Cloud RAN for our mobile network operator and enterprise customers. Server-based Cloud RAN will have to co-exist with purpose-built RAN in the short-to-medium term which calls for performance consistency and service continuity between the two. Together with our leading industry partners, we have made huge progress towards this goal by driving consistent performance across any partner’s Cloud Infrastructure or server hardware. Our collaborative approach to Cloud RAN means we can drive efficiency, innovation, openness, and scale by jointly delivering competitive advantage to organizations embracing Cloud RAN.”
Mobile World Congress 2023:
At MWC 2023 in Barcelona, Nokia will showcase anyRAN as well as the future-ready SmartNIC solution, its enhanced AirFrame Open Edge server as well as the progress made in Cloud RAN with its best-in-class partners. Additional demonstrations will also be included on our partner’s stands. Please visit Hall 3 to see our industry-leading technology solutions.