Ericsson’s New RAN Compute Gear Steps Up Capacity, Efficiency for Mid-Band 5G Expansion

Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

• Ericsson introduced four new radio access network (RAN) compute baseband processing products, including two products with varying capacity levels and outdoor versions of each one.

• The vendor also introduced new software features to optimize carrier aggregation and the quality of users’ experience.

Ericsson announced a range of new products this week spanning the RAN and transport network domains.

In the RAN category, Ericsson introduced four new products in its RAN Compute portfolio of baseband processing products: The RAN Processor 6672 is a one-rack-unit 4G/5G baseband unit, and the RAN Processor 6655 is a lower-capacity version of that product. In addition, the Radio Processor 6372 and 6355 are ruggedized outdoor versions of the 6672 and 6655, respectively.

Source: Ericsson

The 6672 supports five modes in a single board: FDD 4G, FDD 5G, FDD 4G massive MIMO, FDD 5G massive MIMO, and 5G TDD massive MIMO. But the hardware is capable of supporting even more, according to the vendor. (The 6655, meanwhile, supports three modes.) The 6672 also supports 72 cells initially (up from the previous product’s 48) but is expected to support 120 cells in 2025 and more in the future; its hardware supports up to 300 cells. The new products also support millimeter-wave and sub-6 GHz spectrum in the same unit, but the commercialization timing of this capability will be based on market demand. Ericsson is also promoting the 6672’s ability to serve high-scale baseband hubs in centralized RAN architectures, an option where fiber is abundant.

In addition to these new RAN Compute units, Ericsson introduced two new RAN software features.

• Carrier Aggregation Data Steering, available Q1 2024, switches users from the FDD network to the TDD network, to both maximize use of TDD spectrum and reserve low-band FDD spectrum (whose bandwidth is typically in shorter supply) for where it is needed to provide coverage.

• Automated Carrier Aggregation, coming later in 2024, automatically selects and configures carriers for aggregation. In the future, Ericsson hopes to augment this with AI and ML and their coverage predictions.

The step up in capacity-per-hardware-rack-unit in Ericsson’s new RAN Compute units can help optimize networks for the higher capacity levels demanded by the spread of 5G in mid-band spectrum – a process with significant runway ahead. Only about one-fourth of mobile base station sites outside China were using mid-band spectrum for 5G as of July 2023, according to Ericsson. But they also are well-suited to serving the diverse amalgamation of 4G, 5G, FDD, TDD, and massive MIMO that many of today’s 5G networks represent. And importantly, the increase in capacity hardware density can improve energy efficiency – a top concern among operators and a recurring competitive battlefield among RAN vendors. The new gear also helps demonstrate the value of Ericsson’s RAN Compute portfolio, which offers a diverse array of options with a mix of technologies tailored to closely meet each site’s specific needs.

The vendor’s new software features offer further network optimization that can aid both spectral efficiency and the quality of the user experience. And like the new RAN Compute products, they follow the theme of helping operators optimize a mix of spectral assets (including FDD, TDD, etc.). Software features can be especially enticing due to the ease of implementing them via download rather than the hardware replacements that new baseband gear would entail.

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