The role of vRAN in 5G
5G has unveiled a world of opportunities for service providers. It is helping them revolutionize their offerings by introducing advanced services such as private networks, network slices, IoT connectivity, and more. But what makes 5G transformational for operators on the technical and business fronts? One vital component is the virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN), which plays a significant role in the evolution of mobile networks.
The vRAN simplifies network management and enables service providers to introduce innovative new services. And the good news is, existing 4G vRAN solutions are futureproof and equipped to deliver 5G connectivity. That means operators with 5G on their roadmap can begin – in fact many have already begun – implementing vRAN now.
What makes it different from RAN?
The RAN is essential in connecting radio devices to mobile core networks and relies on hardware infrastructure. The focus of vRAN is to evolve from the traditional hardware-driven approach of RAN, and instead implement virtualized or software-based functions. It disaggregates software and hardware. Virtualizing the RAN also enables operators to run their 5G stacks on different vendor infrastructure. With its high flexibility, adaptability, and interoperability, it enables advanced high-value next-gen use cases.
How vRAN works
vRAN employs network functions virtualization (NFV), enabling operators to efficiently control and route cellular resources – a function that’s crucial for 5G core networks.
The virtualized RAN moves the control functions of hardware base stations to centralized servers, bringing them closer to the network edge. By doing so, operators can finetune their resources to accommodate dynamically changing network traffic.
Service providers can efficiently scale their networks without investing in expensive hardware.
Top business benefits of virtualized RAN
1. Eliminate dependence on proprietary hardware vendors
Earlier, the market was dominated by a few players who provided proprietary hardware and software solutions for RAN. Operators were locked in with one vendor’s ecosystem. The introduction of vRAN has changed all this, providing greater flexibility in hardware, software, and systems integration.
As vRAN adheres to the principles of NFV, it lets operators deploy RAN on generic or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. It helps improve network resiliency and utilization. It also simplifies network routing, making it more agile and flexible than hardware-based RAN.
2. Simplify maintenance and increase flexibility
With the virtualization of baseband functions deployed on generic hardware, these functions now reside in centralized data centers. vRAN allows a single uniform hardware platform across the core network, RAN, and the edge. This simplifies the management of the network, reducing operation and maintenance costs.
In addition, network functions from multiple vendors can run on the same hardware, granting increased flexibility to the service provider. Automation software can be enabled to help monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and simplify maintenance.
3. Enable high scalability
vRAN allows for network resources to be scaled or de-scaled depending on changing network demands. The service provider may allocate or de-allocate its resources depending on specific requirements. A private 5G network, for instance, may not need as many compute resources. On the other hand, a dense urban location will demand that the service provider allocate more resources. Consequently, operators will not have to pay for unused resources, further leveraging the cost efficiency of vRAN, improving resource utilization, and network performance.
4. Ensure swift and easy network upgrades
A vRAN can adapt to changes in the network faster because admins can remotely apply updates with a software patch. And, as vRAN can adapt to rapidly changing network demands given its flexibility, it helps ensure the network is future-proof. A present-day 4G vRAN will only require a software update to enable 5G.
5. Seize innovation opportunities
The features and capabilities of vRAN will, no doubt, mean reduced CAPEX and OPEX. vRAN will also allow operators to innovate upon the 5G ecosystem, unlocking new revenue-generation opportunities that were previously unexplored. It enables the operator to support exclusive features of 5G such as network slicing, voice, massive IoT, and URLLC without implementing any changes to its hardware infrastructure. And since it will ensure faster time-to-market of new services, it will significantly contribute to business success.
vRAN enables service providers to ensure a more reliable and flexible network, optimizing resources and keeping costs low. It will be especially beneficial for private 5G networks. Alepo’s 5G solutions include strategic partnerships with leading technology vendors, helping you create a best-of-breed ecosystem without vendor lock-in.
Find out how you can begin your 5G journey: firstname.lastname@example.org.