Transformation across Layers
To better understand how Intel is advancing network transformation, look across the seven-layer Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model that standardizes the functions of all telecommunication systems. Layer 1 is hardware components. Layer 2 is the data link or protocol layer, where data packets are encoded and decoded, enabling the transfer of data between adjacent network nodes. Layer 3 is the network routing layer, and Layers 4-7 go from transport to application.
Intel’s wide portfolio of processors, accelerators, networking, and connectivity solutions power and connect any size of off-the-shelf servers, from core to edge, across Layers 1, 2, and 3. An important part of those efforts is working with the broad industry to deliver reference architectures, such as Intel® FlexRAN, and industry initiatives, such as the O-RAN Alliance, that enable multi-vendor virtualization, allowing for the transformation of Layers 4-7, so that protocols and software can be standardized across the industry.
CommSPs Embrace Open, Multi-vendor Approach to Edge, Radio Access Network
In a new report, titled “OpenRAN – the operators’ perspective. A survey for Mavenir,” Senza Fili found that all operators are considering the use of OpenRAN in their networks. Open innovation is simply a requirement for success in the cloudification of the network across the cloud, core and edge networks.
The Intel FlexRAN is a reference architecture with both software and hardware designed to enable software-based radio base stations that can run on general purpose servers located at the network edge (i.e. radio sites, enterprises or data centers). FlexRAN enables implementations for ORAN/openRAN/vRAN by providing optimized libraries for LTE and for 5G NR Layer 1 workload acceleration. A full FlexRAN platform solution built on Intel architecture can perform the entire 4G and/or 5G Layer 1, 2, and 3 processing. Intel® Xeon® processors are used to implement Layer 3 and Layer 2, and Layer 1 per latest ORAN DU-RU split specifications. The Intel FPGAs can be used to accelerate certain Layer 1 functions and front haul connectivity
Partnerships Support Diverse Enterprise and Network Edge Use Cases
In a recent Gartner report that predicts 5G infrastructure revenue will top $4 billion in 2020, private 5G networks are considered a market segment with significant potential. This week, Corning and Intel announced a strategic collaboration to accelerate the availability of 5G in-building network solutions that scale from small to large venues and enterprises. The companies will deliver a virtual platform for Corning’s 5G network solutions powered by 2nd generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors; Intel FlexRAN 5G and 4G Reference Software; Intel FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card N3000; and 10/25/40Gb Intel Ethernet 700 Series Network Adapters to support diverse CommSP and enterprise 5G deployments.
Others in the industry are developing similar virtualized RAN solutions based on Intel architecture. For example, New Jersey’s American Dream—a massive shopping and entertainment complex—will be using an outdoor deployment with JMA Wireless’s XRAN, which is powered by standard Intel Xeon processors and certified OnGo architecture by the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). The private network is one of the nation’s first Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized commercial deployments using the new CBRS shared spectrum at 3.5GHz.
Due to different form factors and models across the telecommunications industry, there are a wide variety of potential solutions that can be applied in the RAN market. Open systems provide a broad range of options for vendors and operators to tailor solutions that best meet customer needs.
Intel supports both the O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project industry bodies. The O-RAN Alliance was founded by AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO and Orange to ensure greater interoperability across the industry. Intel is part of the Alliance’s Working Groups 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8, whose role is to define the 5G NR stack reference architecture. At Mobile World Congress Shanghai this year, Radisys, China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI), and Intel demonstrated a 5G New Radio reference architecture and use cases.
As the industry gathers at Mobile World Congress Los Angeles, there are several new examples of how the O-RAN Alliance continues to bring the industry together and standardize deployments. In September, China Mobile and Reliance Jio along with participation from China Telecom, China Unicom, Intel, Radisys, Airspan, Baicells, CertusNet, Mavenir, Lenovo, Ruijie Network, Inspur, Samsung Electronics, Sylincom, WindRiver, ArrayComm, and Chengdu NTS launched the Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC) to collaborate on multi-vendor interoperability and validation activities for O-RAN compliancy.
As you can see there is lot of activity and innovation around the radio access network. Companies are advancing new usage and deployment models that tap existing LTE infrastructure while preparing for more widespread 5G services. CommSPs are driving a range of approaches to RAN transformation that support flexibility and choice in how they serve their customers at the lowest total cost of ownership.
Intel continues to play a central role with is working with CommSPs and ecosystem partners to provide a consistent architectural foundation for compute, storage and network transform that spans the cloud, network and edge. For more information, visit intel.com/network.