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NEC and Intel bring NFV to the cloud-based RAN

cell tower and clouds

© Flickr/cc-licence/Prabhakar Banerjee

  • Separation of the digital unit from the radio unit
  • One NFV-based digital unit to support multiple radio units
  • NEC and Intel to strengthen their NFV collaboration work

NEC and Intel have announced that they will collaborate to jointly develop a Cloud-Radio Access Network (Cloud-RAN) solution for virtualising the functions of mobile base stations. The two companies will start a joint proof of concept trial from early 2016 to verify the capabilities of the solution.

"We have been working with Intel on the virtualisation of mobile core networks and customer premises equipment (CPE) and are very pleased to extend our collaboration in network functions virtualisation (NFV) to mobile base stations," said Nozomu Watanabe, General Manager, Mobile Radio Access Network Division, NEC. "Looking forward, NEC will further strengthen its relationship with Intel for the advancement of NFV, which is the core technology supporting 5G and other forms of next generation wireless communication."

As NEC explains, mobile base stations are comprised of a Digital Unit (DU) that handles data processing and a Radio Unit (RU) that sends and receives wireless signals. The Cloud-RAN architecture separates the DU functions from mobile base stations, and enables the functions to be run on off-the-shelf servers equipped with Intel's multi-core processors. This therefore makes it possible to centralise the DU functions, allowing for multiple units of the RU to be controlled from one low-cost server.

But it’s not only a cost saving in terms of processing hardware; NEC says the solution improves the communication performance of mobile base stations through more precise control of radio interference between the RUs, while cutting down on power and space consumption by consolidating the DU hardware. This then contributes to a reduction in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of base station equipment.

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