Most operators, and even the large vendors, see virtualized RAN (whether Open RAN or not) as a medium term architecture, and one that cannot yet match the performance of traditional integrated platforms. But Samsung claims its vRAN can already match that performance.
“While there have been industry discussions that suggest that vRAN performance could be lower than purpose-built, vendor-specific solutions, Samsung’s vRAN offers proof that performance equal to traditional hardware-based equipment is achievable,” Farook Hussan, senior director of technology at Samsung’s Network Division, told SDxCentral.
He added: “Virtualized RAN offers more deployment flexibility and supports swift transition with integrated hardware and software infrastructure. vRAN also eliminates many hardware dependencies, making vRAN an attractive technology option for the operators from both a long term capex and opex perspective.”
An inhouse evaluation of costs and performance by Samsung concluded that a centralized vRAN can reduce total cost of ownership by 13% and opex by 25% over a five-year period compared to a conventional RAN in a distributed topology. This comparison does not take into account the rising need that operators see to distribute their future vRANs in order to support emerging 5G use cases that require real time response, such as millimeter wave beamforming and ultra-low latency.
Samsung launched its first vRAN platform last year and announced trials with Verizon, and it is also contributing to Open RAN projects in a bid to build market share beyond its most successful 5G RAN markets, the USA and South Korea. Its first vRAN products support paired (FDD) sub-GHz spectrum and it will add support for TDD and midband spectrum in its virtualized distributed units later this year.
“Our vRAN solution has virtualized all the elements of the baseband unit that can be software driven,” said Hassan, but admitted it can be challenging to find the optimal server configuration for each operator’s deployment or specific environment . “Another challenge is the seamless integration among servers, network interface cards and container-as-a-service platforms,” he added.
And he also acknowledged that, while centralized, software-only vRANs might deliver well for 4G or simple 5G use cases, in a disaggregated 5G vRAN – with DUs to support low latency RAN functions that require massive processing horsepower – more work was required. “In the initial stages of virtualization, unfortunately, the capacity performance of a fully virtualized DU with software only does not match the performance of a purpose-oriented hardware built with the same cost,” he wrote. “As the processor and platform of the common-off-the-shelf server grows, the performance of the fully virtualized DU is expected to narrow the gap with that of the hardware-based DU over time.”