MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS—SoftBank Corp. (“SoftBank”), NEC Corporation (“NEC”) and VMware, recently acquired by Broadcom Inc., have jointly verified the virtualization of the radio access network (“RAN”), which is the front end of the mobile network. The companies confirmed the feasibility of RAN modernization by converging O-RAN architecture (1) and Telco Cloud (2).

In this joint verification, a virtualized RAN (“vRAN”) system consisted of a general-purpose common infrastructure defined by SoftBank, vRAN applications using O-RAN architecture by NEC, and a vRAN platform optimized for VMware’s Telco Cloud platform.

The vRAN applications were virtualized using container technology by disaggregating the network function of the RAN into Central Units (CUs) and Distributed Units (DUs), which were conventionally handled by the Baseband Unit (BBU). By adopting the O-RAN architecture, the vRAN applications were deployed onto the vRAN platform O-Cloud (3) as O-CU (4) and O-DU (5). In addition, adopting the cloud-native technology (6) for the Telco Cloud-optimized vRAN platform enabled advanced automate of the construction and optimization of RAN applications.

As a result of joint verification, the companies confirmed that it is possible to modernize from a traditional RAN system to a vRAN system to unify and improve the efficiency of network operations. Specifically, the companies confirmed that adopting O-RAN architecture achieves open and unified operations from the design and procurement to the construction and operation. They also confirmed that optimizing for the Telco Cloud enables the construction and operation of a scalable RAN system for smart and efficient operations.

Roles and ResponsibilitiesFollowing are the respective roles and responsibilities for each participating company:

  • SoftBank – Design and construction of vRAN infrastructure (COTS server, network equipment).
  • NEC – Development and construction of vRAN applications (CU, DU), Development and construction of RU (Radio Unit).
  • Broadcom – Development and construction of vRAN platform (IaaS, CaaS, PaaS, real-time OS).

Verification DetailsThe companies built a verification environment that simulates a commercial environment and conducted verified the following:

  • Basic communication process for CU/DU/RU along O-RAN architecture.
  • Low-latency and low-jitter processing of DU using a real-time OS.
  • Efficiency of RAN system construction with advanced automation functions managed by PaaS.
  • Carrier-grade robustness with healing function managed by PaaS.
  • Easy scaling out using the scaling function managed by PaaS.
  • Unified operations of multi-tenant functions managed by IaaS/CaaS.*Please refer to the attachment for details of the verification content.

For additional technical details, please read here.

Supporting QuotesTomohiro Sekiwa, Senior Vice President & CNO (Chief Network Officer) of SoftBank, says: "With the aim of providing customers with low-cost, high-quality mobile communications, SoftBank has been promoting the introduction of various cutting-edge RAN technologies. We believe that the innovative RAN modernization with virtualization, O-RAN, and Telco Cloud that we have verified will be the core technology for efficient RAN operations in the future. In today's world, where dramatic improvements in monetization through telecommunications services cannot be expected, improving operational efficiency by modernizing the entire commercial network using digital twins and other technologies is one of the biggest challenges for telecommunications carriers. SoftBank's goal is to modernize the entire network, and we plan to continue our activities to solve this problem, including the next issue, which is how to optimize the technology we have verified in this initiative."

Takashi Sato, Corporate Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Network Solutions Business Division of NEC Corporation, says: "In order to enable flexible mobile networks, we need to deploy virtualization software solutions that support O-RAN. The validation demonstrated that NEC's virtualized RAN application expanded the ecosystem by supporting VMware's platform, helping carriers improve operational efficiency. Going forward, the three companies will continue to work together to maximize the value of the network by combining SoftBank's multi-tenant integrated cloud platform and applications. NEC will continue to deliver fully containerized virtualized RAN and mobile core applications, providing flexible, high-performance mobile network solutions."

Sanjay Uppal, Vice President and General Manager of Broadcom's Software-Defined Edge Division, says: "The expansion of our joint work with SoftBank and NEC will further simplify SoftBank's network. It will accelerate the transformation. Speed is a top priority for all carriers. PaaS(“VMware Telco Cloud Automation”)and its integrated orchestration capabilities enable operators to quickly deploy rapidly evolving CNF (“cloud-native function”) requirements for NEC's RAN deployments."

About SoftBank Corp.Guided by the SoftBank Group’s corporate philosophy, “Information Revolution – Happiness for everyone,” SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) operates telecommunications and IT businesses in Japan and globally. In the fiscal year ended March 2023, SoftBank Corp. registered 5,912.0 billion yen of revenue, 1,060.2 billion yen of operating income and 531.4 billion yen of net income. SoftBank Corp. has 40 million mobile subscribers in Japan, and through its group companies, 61 million smartphone payment (PayPay) users, 85 million online media (Yahoo! JAPAN) users and 96 million communication app (LINE) users (as of February 7, 2024). Building on its strong business foundation and compelling number of customer touchpoints, SoftBank Corp. is expanding into non-telecom fields in line with its “Beyond Carrier” growth strategy while further growing its telecom business. Also, by fully harnessing the power of AI, 5G/6G, IoT, Digital Twin, Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) solutions, including High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS)-based stratospheric telecommunications, and other advanced technologies, SoftBank Corp. aims to be “a company that provides next-generation social infrastructure essential to the development of a digital society.” In recognition of its ESG initiatives, SoftBank Corp. was selected for inclusion in the 2022 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World) as the only telecommunications company from Japan, FTSE4Good, 2023 Constituent MSCI Japan ESG Select Leaders Index and Empowering Women Index, and other leading global ESG investments indices. To learn more, please visit https://www.softbank.jp/en/

About NEC CorporationNEC Corporation (TSE: 6701) has established itself as a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies while promoting the brand statement of “Orchestrating a brighter world.” NEC enables businesses and communities to adapt to rapid changes taking place in both society and the market as it provides for the social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. For more information, visit NEC at https://www.nec.com.

About BroadcomBroadcom Inc. (NASDAQ: AVGO) is a global technology leader that designs, develops, and supplies a broad range of semiconductor, enterprise software and security solutions. Broadcom's category-leading product portfolio serves critical markets including cloud, data center, networking, broadband, wireless, storage, industrial, and enterprise software. Our solutions include service provider and enterprise networking and storage, mobile device and broadband connectivity, mainframe, cybersecurity, and private and hybrid cloud infrastructure. Broadcom is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Palo Alto, CA. For more information, go to www.broadcom.com.

Footnotes

  1. O-RAN architecture: Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) is a type of RAN that enables interoperability between mobile network equipment developed by various vendors. O-RAN architecture demonstrates conformity with the RAN functional partitioning requirements defined by O-RAN ALLIANCE.
  2. Telco Cloud: Telco Cloud is the data center resources that carriers need to deploy and manage mobile networks and data transfer functions in production at scale. Traditionally, Telco Clouds are located in private data center facilities and are used to support the communication requirements of 3G and 4G LTE networks. Now that 5G equipment is being deployed internationally across the carrier community, vendors are adopting strategies for network function virtualization and software-defined data center (SDDC) management. These strategies enable efficient deployment of the necessary operational software to carriers.
  3. O-Cloud: An open standard for platforms for onboarding vRAN applications as defined by the O-RAN ALLIANCE.
  4. O-CU: An open standard for vRAN applications and CU, as defined by the O-RAN ALLIANCE.
  5. O-DU: An open standard for vRAN applications and DU, as defined by the O-RAN ALLIANCE.
  6. Cloud-native technology: A technology for building and running scalable applications in the latest dynamic environments such as public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid clouds. Here, it refers to the containerized applications and the Kubernetes platform that manages their execution.

Eloy Ontiveros Broadcom Global Communications eloy.ontiveros@broadcom.com

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