Orange puts cloud RAN through its paces with trial in Poland

Nokia announces two 5G-related trials in Poland with SK Telecom and Orange. (Pixabay)

Orange is putting the finishing touches on its 5G blueprint by conducting a cloud RAN trial with Nokia in Poland.

Orange conducted a live trial from March to the beginning of May with Nokia to validate the benefits of cloud-optimized radio access networks (RAN) for its migration to 5G. The trial of cloud RAN technology was conducted by Orange to prep for the use of a distributed-cloud architecture for 5G.

The trial used radio sites in the city of Chelm while the virtualized part of the baseband was run in a data center about 43 miles away in Lublin. Nokia said its AirScale Cloud Base Station provided equally strong network performance on both Nokia's reference cloud infrastructure and on Orange's own cloud environment.

The trial allowed Orange to gauge the impact of virtualized RAN on its architectures and was viewed as an important step towards 5G deployments. A virtualized RAN network separates some or all baseband functions from the remote radio unit and runs them as VNFs (Virtualized Network Functions) on commodity hardware.

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"For Orange, RAN virtualization is a critical enabler to deliver a better and more homogeneous customer experience on 4G and future 5G networks, allowing these multi-service networks to simultaneously handle various type of objects with different connectivity needs," said Orange Global's Arnaud Vamparys, vice president, radio access networks and microwaves, in a prepared statement. "The positive outcome of this trial is an important step towards the implementation of this enabler inside our networks in Europe and Africa."

Nokia said its architecture split the baseband processing functionality across the radio cell sites and data center using its AirScale Cloud Base Station. Time-sensitive functions were performed at the cell site and connected via Ethernet fronthaul—which allowed Orange to use its existing transport network—while centralized software hosted at the data handled the non real-time functions.

SK Telecom partners with Nokia on standalone 5G

Just five days after the new 5G standard was approved by the 3rd Generation Partnership Program (3GPP), South Korean telco SK Telecom announced today that it had successfully demonstrated data transmission using 5G NR SA (standalone mode) with Nokia in Poland.

SK Telecom and Nokia carried out end-to-end data transmission and ultra-low latency data processing by using 3GPP approved 5G SA equipment at the Nokia Lab in Wroclaw, Poland.

At the trial site, the two companies verified the feasibility of various 5G SA-based application services such as virtual reality, ultra HD video, autonomous driving and IoT-based "smart factory."

SK Telecom said the work with Nokia moved it one step closer to early commercialization of 5G. In December, SK Telecom said it conducted the world’s first data transmission using 5G NSA (non-standalone mode).

5G SA relies solely on 5G for data transmission, without depending upon 4G while 5G NSA uses both the LTE and 5G networks. SK Telecom said it would use 5G NSA standard mobile phones and equipment for the initial stage of 5G commercialization with the LTE core and then gradually add the use of 5G SA.

“By successfully verifying technologies aligned with the global 5G standard, we have gained a powerful driving force to lead our way into the global 5G commercialization,” said SK Telecom executive vice president Park Jin-hyo, in a prepared statement. “SK Telecom will speed up our comprehensive efforts towards 5G commercialization, such as the release of 5G mobile phones and network deployment.”