Verizon has notched another achievement in its network virtualization efforts, with successful tests paving the way for commercialization of edge computing and network slicing technologies.
The tests, conducted in California with partners Intel and Nokia, achieved full virtualization of baseband unit functions, the operator announced Wednesday. In the trial, hardware and software were decoupled, enabling more flexibility as to where compute functions could happen within the network. Verizon noted that baseband functions make up the heaviest load of computing on the Radio Access Network (RAN).
With virtualized baseband operations, the network can be hardware agnostic and use Common Off-the-Shelf (COTS) hardware, according to Verizon.
In moving toward a virtualized RAN edge, Verizon said it’s laying the foundation to bring compute power and infrastructure closer to consumers, which will lead to decreased lag time or latency, eventually delivering single-digit (or below 10 milliseconds) latency.
Delivering near zero latency, or reducing the lag time when data traverses a network from a user to a compute center and back again, is poised to become increasingly important with the advent of critical 5G-supported applications like autonomous robotics.
“Having virtualized the core of the network last year, this significant step forward in virtualizing the RAN edge is a critical piece of providing the next generation of wireless solutions for consumers and enterprises,” said Adam Koeppe, Senior Vice President of Network Planning at Verizon. “With a virtualized baseband unit, we will lay the foundation to be able to move computing functionality to the edge of the network and will be able to rapidly respond to customers’ varied latency and computing needs.”
For the trial, which involved the first over-the-air data session in a fully virtualized RAN test environment, Intel provided its Xeon Scalable processor-based platforms and FlexRAN reference architecture. Nokia provided the AirScale All-in-Cloud Base Station architecture.
Cristina Rodriguez, Vice President Data Center Group, General Manager Wireless Access Network Division at Intel, said: “By innovating and collaborating on this trial and achieving this milestone, Intel, Nokia and Verizon have shown that the applicability of Cloud RAN on the network edge is possible for agile service delivery that incorporates AI and data analytics.”
Verizon has been performing tests with its Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) platform on its 5G network, successfully cutting latency in half during a trial in February.
Koeppe said earlier this year during MWC Barcelona that it is a combination of the 5G RAN and the edge compute network that enable delivery of single-digit latency on a 5G network overall.
“Part one of latency is the improved air link that you get from the 5G spec, part two of latency is where you do the compute processing for the use case,”Koeppe said.
In other edge computing news, MobiledgeX this week announced it’s teaming with telecom company Telus to trial mobile edge computing in Canada. Telus will pilot MobiledgeX Edge-Cloud R1.0, and ecosystem players like device makers, app developers and IoT hardware manufactures will be able to test new applications.