Verizon takes major step towards commercialization of Multi-Access Edge Compute (MEC) and Network Slicing with successful virtualization of baseband unit operations

CARPINTERIA, CA – Verizon has reached another major milestone on the path to deploying revolutionary new wireless technologies such as Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) and network slicing which, in combination with 5G technology over mmWave spectrum, will lay the foundation for previously unimagined latency-dependent wireless solutions.

In a trial environment in California, the wireless provider achieved full virtualization of baseband functions – the heaviest portion of computing on the Radio Access Network (RAN). This virtualization will enable the network to be hardware agnostic, using Common Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware, leading to greater flexibility and speed to deployment of products and services. This virtualization will also lower the barrier of entry for others in the ecosystem resulting in an acceleration of innovation, reduce operating costs, and lay the groundwork for flexible infrastructure closer to the customer on the network leading to single digit latency – one of the key promises of 5G technology.

“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. “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.”

The first over-the-air data session in a fully virtualized RAN trial environment

In previous iterations of wireless networks, hardware and software were coupled together restricting the location of where operations could happen. In this trial, hardware and software were decoupled, providing greater flexibility in where computing operations could take place within the network.

Verizon worked with Intel and Nokia in this trial in California. Intel provided the Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor-based platforms and Intel® FlexRAN reference architecture while Nokia provided the new AirScale All-in-Cloud Base Station architecture, which will provide the flexibility needed for future services and requirements for 5G, IoT, low latency services and end-to-end network slicing.

Cristina Rodriguez, Vice President Data Center Group, General Manager Wireless Access Network Division at Intel, said: "Flexibility, efficiency, and performance are just some of the benefits that a network provides when transformed with cloud efficiencies, powered by Intel technology. 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.”

"Nokia is a leader in driving and commercializing Cloud RAN innovations, and we are excited to be a part of this collaborative work that represents a key milestone for Verizon’s cloud migration,” said Michael Clever, Senior Vice President and Head of Cloud RAN, Nokia. “This successful trial is an important step in offering flexible and scalable capacity, plus continuous software delivery.”

Verizon continues to push innovation forward

This trial, along with the successful Multi-Access Edge Compute work Verizon recently announced, its ongoing focus on 5G deployment, its relentless focus on technology advancements and its award-winning network pave the way for game-changing solutions for customers and enterprises.

“Verizon continues to lead the way in advancing communications’ networks and how they will be used in the future,” continued Koeppe. “Massive scale IOT solutions, more robust consumer devices and solutions, AR/VR, remote healthcare, autonomous robotics in manufacturing environments, and ubiquitous smart city solutions are only some of the ways we will be able to deliver the promise of the digital world. These advancements in technology are critical steps towards that realization.”

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