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As the mobile industry looks beyond today’s traditional radio access networks (RAN) underpinned by purpose-built hardware, a growing number of mobile operators are embracing virtualized RAN and an open ecosystem supported by general purpose hardware. The reason? Flexibility, scalability and operational efficiency, as well as increased opportunity to advance 5G potential and unlock greater innovation as the industry looks ahead to 6G.
As this momentum continues forward, so does the movement toward interoperative Open RAN collaboration. This industry integration was recently on display during the O-RAN Alliance Virtual Demo and Global PlugFest Spring 2022, which spanned three continents and highlighted demonstrations from more than 50 companies and institutions. The event confirmed integration of multivendor network functions and compliance to O-RAN specifications.
As a PlugFest participant and contributor to the O-RAN Alliance, Intel had the opportunity to work alongside multiple industry collaborators. They showed new use cases that create revenue-generating opportunities and reduce operational costs, enabled through innovation with open radio access network-compliant intelligent RAN architecture.
What Capabilities Did the Tests Reveal?
Energy savings of up to 12%: In an open RAN infrastructure setup at the University of Utah’s mobile networking laboratory, Vodafone, Intel, Wind River, Keysight Technologies and Radisys successfully demonstrated reduced operational energy consumption of an open RAN infrastructure. The results, which were measured using real-life traffic scenarios, indicated power savings of 9% and 12%, respectively, during high and low mobile traffic scenarios.
RAN slice assurance: Network slicing plays a vital role in enabling service providers to offer innovative new services and maximize the return on their network investment. RAN slice assurance technology makes it possible to deliver 5G services with guaranteed levels of performance and quality, also known as a service level agreement (SLA). Utilizing the power of 3rd Generation Intel® Xeon® processors:
To show that multiple cells and virtual distributed units (vDUs) can be supported, VMware and Intel tested dynamic RAN slice resource allocation for SLA assurance in open RAN on an open cloud platform supported by VMware Telco Cloud Platform (TCP). The test involved a VMware xApp hosted on a VMware near real-time RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), which used O-RAN standardized interfaces to dynamically allocate cell resources to help meet end-user SLAs. This capability will enable operators to offer differentiated services based on slicing with SLA assurance across a regional mobile network.
Intel demonstrated SLA assurance with AI/ML-powered Network Slice Radio Resource Manager (NSRRM) xApp in an O-RAN intelligent controller integrated with an open, virtualized RAN based on Intel® FlexRAN™ reference software, including an AI/ML-powered scheduler. This demonstration showed operators the viability of offering revenue-generating business models with optimal radio resources.
“Cross-industry opportunities, like PlugFest, showcase the value of collaboration toward open ecosystems and software-defined networks,” says Cristina Rodriguez, vice president and general manager of the Wireless Access Networking Division at Intel. “Intel is committed to driving technical innovation and intelligence across the RAN landscape, including in Cloud RAN and Open RAN networks, and to helping operators realize the full business and efficiency benefits of RAN virtualization.”