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SoftBank Corp., NEC and Broadcom Jointly Validate RAN Modernization with Virtualization by Unifying O-RAN Architecture and Telco Cloud 

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 Responsibilities 

Following 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 Details 

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

l  Basic communication process for CU/DU/RU along O-RAN architecture. 

l  Low-latency and low-jitter processing of DU using a real-time OS. 

l  Efficiency of RAN system construction with advanced automation functions managed by PaaS. 

Carrier-grade robustness with healing function managed by PaaS. 

l  Easy scaling out using the scaling function managed by PaaS. 

l  Unified operations of multi-tenant functions managed by IaaS/CaaS. 

Supporting Quotes

Tomohiro 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.”

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