White Papers

Open Source Infrastructure Software for vRAN Deployment and Operation

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© HEAVY READING | WIND RIVER | OPEN SOURCE INFRASTRUCTURE SOFTWARE | AUGUST 2019 2 VRAN AND OPEN SOURCE INFRASTRUCTURE SOFTWARE Mobile networks connect over 5 billion users and generate over $1 trillion of service revenue annually. With more than 7 million cell sites deployed globally, this makes radio access networks (RANs) the most important distributed network infrastructure in the world. Operators spend around $32 billion annually on RAN equipment. By 2023, this figure will rise to $36 billion, according to Ovum, with 5G expected to account for 60% of the market. As operators enter the 5G era, the RAN is becoming increasingly software-driven and open. The largest equipment vendors are migrating from integrated single-vendor systems to more modular, open platforms. In parallel, a new wave of challengers is adopting software- led design principles to develop virtual RANs (vRANs) optimized for cloud deployment and operation. These new approaches enable distributed, disaggregated RAN architectures that can be deployed on the same edge cloud infrastructure as other network functions and services. A major benefit of this new approach is to bring cloud-like operating models to the RAN, with greater automation and lower life cycle costs. This white paper focuses on the software infrastructure operators need to deploy and operate open vRAN commercially at scale. Specifically, it discusses the suitability of StarlingX open source software to bringing cloud deployment and operating models to the highly distributed "far edge" cloud infrastructure that will run vRANs. Open RAN Architecture The mobile RAN is made up of functional modules that combine to create a radio base station, which connects to the network via an IP/Ethernet transport interface. The major functional units of a base station are the following: • The antenna unit (AU), which radiates and receives the wireless signal. Active antenna units (AAUs), which are popular in 5G to support massive MIMO, also incorporate radio functions into the antenna. • The radio unit (RU), which amplifies and filters the signal and converts between analog and digital. The RU is the largest component of a base station bill of materials; it uses specialist radio frequency (RF) hardware. • The digital unit (DU), which processes baseband signal and schedules resources at a microsecond level, is fundamental to radio performance. Classically, baseband is a hardware function; however, new techniques that enable very low latency and jitter at the operating system level make it possible – and attractive – to virtualize DUs. • The centralized unit (CU) handles Layer 3 tasks such as mobility management and device connectivity states. Classically, this is integrated with the DU, but increasingly is separated; the CU can be readily virtualized as a step toward vRAN. These functional components (AU, RU, DU, CU) combine to form a radio base station, known as a "gNB" in 5G standards terminology. Because the 3GPP defines a logical and functional architecture, these components can be deployed in different ways by the vendor or operator. For example, virtualized and disaggregated or hardware-based and tightly

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