Is it possible that one Radio Unit (RU) is shared by multiple operators and then their respective traffic goes to their respective DUs, CUs, and MC?
RAN sharing allows operators to reduce their capital expenses by providing a way for operators to share the same base stations instead of building them out separately. It is common for operators to share towers and RAN sharing takes this to the next level by enabling operators to share the 5G Radio Unit (RU). Given the large number of new, small cell sites that will be needed, this makes sense especially for low-density areas or expansion into new markets. It is certainly a business opportunity for tower owners. Moreover, many new 5G services will require a critical mass of coverage to gain market penetration so RAN sharing helps drive that.
However, operators need as much control as possible to ensure that they meet their SLAs, and routers play a major role in that. TIP’s concept of the Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway router would address that by connecting several cell sites with full routing support including QoS and segment routing. Those sites would have a RU with the DU and CU running deeper into the network. Given the space and power limitations at small cell sites, this makes sense while also enabling virtualization of the DU and CU which we discussed in the webinar.
By running a virtual router for each operator on the cell site gateway, each operator gets the degree of control they need while saving money on equipment. The Volta Elastic Virtual Routing Engine (VEVRE) is the only routing solution that can support multiple virtual routers on an ASIC based switch. Most importantly, each virtual router is completely separate, with routing protocols, QoS, and traffic engineering all independent. There is also a complete separation of the management domains. Thus, the operators can share the RU but use their own virtualized infrastructure of DU, CU, and mobile core while effectively managing their SLAs.
What about interim strategies like C Band and CBRS?
C Band spectrum between 3.3–4.2 GHz has been typically used for fixed wireless, satellite, and the government/military. GSA said that since 2015, it identified 23 countries that have “auctioned or allocated C-Band spectrum with the intention of opening up the frequency range for mobile broadband and 5G usage.” As we noted in a previous blog post, the US Federal Communications Commission held their first auction of CBRS mid-band frequencies for 5G, with winning bidders committing almost $4.6 billion on licenses in the 3.5GHz range. These are not interim strategies for these buyers.
More spectrum will enable broader use of 5G technology and the C Band and CBRS are a key part of that. This will enable new players to provide services as well as private 5G by enterprises such as manufacturers.
Does Volta partner with RAN and CN vendors?
Volta partners with several hardware vendors in the open networking market to ensure interoperability. The market has matured to allow customers to embrace disaggregation so that they can mix and match hardware and software to best meet their specific needs. The industry is seeing a similar approach with Open RAN.
As a routing vendor, we provide the RAN transport for IP traffic coming from well-defined interfaces, so interoperability is not an issue. The trend we are seeing is the mobile core running on the cloud including public cloud. We see synergies because we are the only routing vendor who can run in the cloud to support white box switches. These ASIC-based devices are essential to cost effective 5G transport networks. Moreover, we are the only vendor that can support multiple virtual routers on these switches. Virtualization is key to supporting network slicing and this extends to routing. Using the cloud for routing and mobile core helps keep cost low for these processor intensive functions while also ensuring service agility and time to revenue.
What’s your view of CDNs in the edge cloud ecosystem?
While we addressed cloud players, tower owners and data center operators, CDN providers already have an edge compute footprint. In the webinar, Jennifer Clark noted the importance of video traffic which is a traditional strength for CDNs. We see CDNs are having the same opportunities and needs as other edge computing providers.