Virtualization in the mobile access network:O2 Telefónica uses Nokia Cloud RAN technology in 5G network
Telecommunications provider O2 Telefónica is using innovative Cloud RAN technology from European network equipment supplier Nokia in its 5G network for the first time. As with Open RAN, Cloud RAN allows parts of the radio access network (RAN) to be virtualized, which makes it possible to separate hardware and software. O2 Telefónica thus also benefits from the advantages of the cloud in the mobile access network, for example for the automation of network functions or more flexible use of hardware. O2 Telefónica and Nokia are thus doing pioneering work.
"We are proud to be the first network operator in Europe to use Nokia's innovative Cloud RAN technology in our O2 5G Live network," said Mallik Rao, Chief Technology & Information Officer at O2 Telefónica. "The cloud is a real game changer. We are already deploying it in the 5G core network. Virtualizing the RAN is the next logical step in our journey to increasingly move network functions to the cloud. We can use it to further optimize our existing, very good network. Cloud RAN offers us additional opportunities in terms of automation and flexibility as well as accelerated roll-out of innovations. We are thus operating the most advanced mobile network." Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia: "We believe that the mobile access network will become a hybrid network in the future, where the classic network architecture will increasingly be complemented by cloud RAN in densely populated areas or campus networks, for example. Here, together with O2 Telefónica, we have succeeded in showing how cloud and classic architecture complement each other and interact. Since the same software works in both areas, customers receive a consistently high network performance."
Cloud RAN enables faster modernization of mobile access network
The most important technical components of a mobile network site include the antennas and the so-called radio and baseband units. Until now, these have been set up at the site using classic hardware - at each of O2 Telefónica's approximately 28,000 sites in Germany. With Cloud RAN, parts of the baseband unit can be virtualized: The baseband unit, which is responsible for signal processing, is largely outsourced to the cloud with Cloud RAN. Local and regional data centers are needed to operate Cloud RAN. These can also be used for other regional cloud services.
Separation of hardware and software to increase flexibility
By separating hardware and software, telecommunications providers such as O2 Telefónica can increasingly use standardized hardware in the future. This approach is similar to the Open RAN concept. Network operators no longer have to rely solely on systems from network equipment suppliers, but can choose between different cloud hardware providers. O2 Telefonica has already been using first Open RAN sites since 2020. With Nokia, O2 Telefónica is now also using Cloud RAN technology with an established network equipment provider. Nokia's Cloud RAN solution has the advantage of being compatible with both traditional Nokia hardware and various cloud hardware providers - making it particularly well suited for rollout in existing networks. Implementation in the cloud also has the advantage that individual network functions can be automated to a greater extent. In the future, software updates and new functionalities can also be rolled out even faster than before. This means that the mobile network can be modernized more quickly and always kept up to date.
Pioneering work for virtualization of the mobile communications access network
O2 Telefónica and Nokia are pioneering the virtualization of the mobile access network: O2 Telefónica is the first operator in Europe to use Nokia's Cloud RAN solution. The companies have implemented and tested the technology on the O2 live network as part of their "Innovation Cluster" in Potsdam, where they are using it to serve customers. Following the positive experience from the test, O2 Telefónica and Nokia will evaluate the next steps for the introduction of the Cloud RAN technology. The companies are thus laying the foundation for further improving the network experience of millions of mobile customers in Germany.