First cloud-native, container-based 5G RAN

First cloud-native, container-based 5G RAN

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

As an industry first, this vRAN software takes the open virtualized RAN concept, pioneered by Altiostar, and further decomposes the network functions into containerized applications that are fast to deploy, can be individually upgraded and offer better network scalability.  The software dramatically improves the economics, deployability and scalability of 5G RANs for mobile network operators (MNOs).

In October 2019, Rakuten Mobile launched its fully virtualized mobile network using Altiostar’s cloud-based RAN with an open ecosystem of vendors. With this new technology, Rakuten Mobile intends to launch its 5G network with a top-down focus on services and applications and leverage the cloud infrastructure it has built for 4G.

“Altiostar as the first company to virtualize the RAN, including the lower layers of the protocol stack, is again leading the industry with the development of cloud-native containerized radio access technology,” said Ashraf Dahod, CEO of Altiostar Networks. “This new architecture will allow service providers to develop 5G services that are even more responsive to consumer needs over their entire network deployment lifecycle.”

“We pushed the envelope in terms of how mobile networks are deployed and had several industry firsts when we introduced the fully cloud-based, software-defined Rakuten Mobile network,” said Tareq Amin, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Rakuten Mobile.

“With our 5G launch, we want our users to be able to also experience the next generation of applications and services. A cloud-native microservice-based architecture will allow us to focus on identifying these 5G applications and services with the knowledge that the end-to-end network, including the RAN functions, has the modularity, flexibility and the agility to roll them out.”

The server platforms that drive the virtualization technologies in Rakuten Mobile’s network are based on high performance Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors. As part of this project, Intel will release various Kubernetes plugins that facilitate RAN and MEC application containers to be deployed on Intel architecture.

The conversion from a virtual network function (VNF) to container network function (CNF) brings additional flexibility and scalability. Each vRAN CNF provides scalability thereby allowing MNOs to introduce Control Plane User Plane Separation (CUPS) architecture into their network, which then allow them to size their deployments for the best economics knowing that they can easily grow as their customer base grows or change or scale their network to accommodate user traffic patterns.

As an example, an IoT network with tens of thousands of devices, each executing micro-transactions, will lead to high control plane traffic compared to the total aggregate user plane data. MNOs can easily adapt to support this traffic pattern while accommodating video streaming users, which require more user plane and less control plane resources.

The Altiostar vRAN CNFs provide a high degree of resiliency and redundancy as they can be run in an architecture across many nodes while being managed by an orchestrator that selects the best node depending on availability. This allows for efficient utilization of resources with scaling and load balancing across the many nodes where MNOs can adopt a pay-as-you-grow approach for hardware infrastructure for deploying 5G.

A light-weight container-based solution for RAN applications provides MNOs with a flexible and modular architecture that takes a very small memory footprint, allows for rapid initialization, large scale automation and faster recovery from failures. Furthermore, it gives MNOs an opportunity to utilize micro-service models in their CI/CD pipelines that ensure faster delivery of applications.

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