• At the ZTE 5G Summit in Bangkok (Thailand) in November 2023, ZTE continued its focus on RIS with a next-generation prototype that consumes less power than its predecessor.
• ZTE also introduced ZTE RAN Composer, a solution that inserts general-purpose computing into the baseband unit to aid AI-based RAN optimization applications.
At the 2023 ZTE 5G Summit in Bangkok (Thailand), ZTE presented a range of views on 5G’s continuing and future evolution, including presentations from operators and analysts in addition to ZTE representatives. The company also highlighted two forward-looking technologies that stood out: reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) and what ZTE has branded as ‘RAN Composer.’
• Ericsson brought the finishing touches needed to optimize its mobile access portfolio – tying together its RAN compute portfolio, cloud-native capabilities,transport controller, and new Router 6000 variants to leverage RAN innovation and spectrum efficiency with AI/ML to automate services.
• Ericsson brings to market two new Router 6000 variants: the Router 6671 designed for cell site deployment, which supports 10G and 25G Ethernet connectivity, and the 4.8 Tbps Router 6678 to support large scale centralized RAN deployments.
Ericsson’s two new Router 6000 family additions are designed to seamlessly integrate with its RAN portfolio to deliver the capacity, efficiency, and operational support needed to satisfy 5G service demands. With the recent uptick in the use of mid-band spectrum, operators will need to scale up their transport and RAN networks to leverage new Ericsson software features such as carrier aggregation data steering (which switches users from the FDD to TDD); and automated carrier aggregation, which automatically selects and configures carriers for aggregation.
• Operators are challenged to build access networks that transition from the 1G era to meet 10/100/400G service expectations. It is not only a bandwidth issue, but one of sustainability, flexibility, and the adaptability to deliver 5G services.
• Nokia’s move to adapt its FPcx silicon to fuel a new range of access and aggregation routers elevates the access layer as an integral part of the intelligent network and changes the game.
The access and aggregation routers of the past were based on platforms designed to deliver effective access and aggregation services for 1G to 10G services. Most were based on merchant silicon, which hosted a vendor’s network operating system and networking features, including platforms such as Nokia’s 7250 IXR. In contrast, the higher-scale IP services edge and IP core have been based on proprietary silicon, which delivered high-scale switching capacity, rich telemetry, and programmability needed to meet automate and meet stringent performance, power, and security requirements. The use of merchant silicon was widely adopted by equipment vendors to deliver solutions that kept pace with market demands, and a few vendors also leveraged programmable silicon such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Part of the draw for merchant silicon was driven by operators who desired to minimize vendor dependance – i.e., the white box era.
• Verizon recently announced that it has tested point-to-multipoint (P2MP) millimeter wave (mmWave) radio for providing broadband to multi-dwelling units (MDUs) in urban areas.
• The idea is good, but practical issues abound – a startup ISP Starry, which fielded a similar solution to lackluster response, is just emerging from Chapter 11 restructuring.
In its bid to make the process of expanding its broadband footprint more efficient, Verizon announced it has tested a new use case for its mmWave network in Texas (US). In the proof of concept, a centralized rooftop radio site (“donor” cell) was connected to a radio atop a simulated MDU with multiple endpoints requiring separate broadband connections. The signal was then transmitted via coaxial cable to a data processing unit equipped with a corresponding modem. The building’s existing wiring was used to transport the signal to end-user routers that provide broadband coverage to endpoint devices. Unlike “traditional” FWA, the solution uses a simplified broadband network gateway (BNG) instead of the company’s 4G and 5G core – Verizon claims this allows for “excellent” latency and capacity while reducing the load on the CSPs 4G and 5G mobile cores.
• 5G-Advanced and energy efficiency were two prominent themes among RAN vendors at MWC Shanghai.
• ZTE introduced a new offering for private networks that features integrated RAN and core functions.
In June 2023, Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai celebrated its 10th anniversary as an Asian counterpart to the MWC held annually in Barcelona, Spain. As usual, China’s two biggest RAN vendors, Huawei and ZTE, loomed large over the proceedings, but neither vendor made major new RAN product announcements at the show.
• Advances in reduced capability (RedCap) technology could help operators monetize 5G by enabling IoT use cases.
• RedCap commercialization is set to increase in 2023 on both the network and device side, establishing the ecosystem needed to support new businesses.
As a marketing term, ‘reduced capability’ technology may not sound inherently enticing, but the technology is designed to help bring to life a diverse array of IoT use cases that could bring much-needed monetization possibilities to 5G networks.
• Radisys, a RAN software provider owned by India’s Reliance Industries, is acquiring Mimosa Networks, which supplies fixed-wireless gear to Reliance’s mobile operator Jio.
• Both private and public investment dedicated to securing India’s telecom independence is surging in India as the country rolls out 5G.
Roughly four years after it acquired the company in late-2018, radio access networking (RAN) vendor Airspan recently announced it has agreed to sell Mimosa Networks, its fixed-wireless unit, to Radisys, a RAN software provider owned by Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, for $60 million. In 2022, Mimosa reported about $25 million in revenue.
• Intel’s new system-on-a-chip (SoC) features integrated accelerators, which help close the performance gap between virtual RAN (vRAN) and traditional RAN. Thus far, accelerators have been offered as separate hardware cards.
• Rakuten Symphony’s plans to offer a vDU based on the new SoC, following the availability of Qualcomm’s new accelerator and Juniper’s recent move to give away its RAN Intelligent Controller, show vRAN momentum building.
Recently, vRAN vendor Rakuten Symphony revealed plans to produce a virtual distributed baseband unit (vDU) based on new Intel SoC, due in 2023, whose accelerator is integrated with the CPU rather than being offered as a separate hardware card. This represents a departure from the status quo (accelerators as separate hardware cards), but the two vendors say it also addresses a key obstacle that has been holding vRAN back.