vRAN: The Future Begins Now

By Caroline Chan, Wireless access segment manager, Network Platform Group, Intel

Slated for field trials this year and production next year, virtualized radio access network (vRAN) technology could be key to delivering better network performance, lower TCO, and additional revenue streams. Demonstrating this innovative RAN for a new era of mobility, Alcatel-Lucent, China Mobile, Intel, and TelefĂłnica* are showcasing four usage models at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015. Come see this TD-LTE live demo.

What’s vRAN?

The vRAN moves baseband processing from cell sites to a pool of virtualized servers running in a data center, with the goal of making the RAN more open and flexible, while supporting both new and existing functions. Also called Cloud-RAN (C-RAN), vRAN enables service providers to dynamically scale capacity and more easily deploy value-added mobile services at the network edge to generate incremental revenue and improve the user experience. Following the ETSI network functions virtualization (NFV) model, today’s vRAN for LTE is the launching pad to 5G, where compute + communication is one of the hallmark features.

Key Benefits

Centralized broadband units (BBUs) and network resources enable: - Better network performance - Network resources that are easier to scale and load balance, and that improve interference management, particularly for heterogeneous networks.

  • Lower TCO

    • Cell sites that cost less due to reduced complexity, and simpler network operations (upgrades/repair), thanks to easily accessible, shared platforms.
  • Differentiation and new revenue streams

    • New service opportunities that could be more RAN-aware (location-based caching) and generate additional revenue.

What you’ll see at MWC’15

Our demonstration is based on an evolved platform with advanced capabilities that address two application domains for vRAN:


  1. Dynamically scale BBU capacity With mobility on the rise, it becomes increasingly more difficult to project demand, leading many service providers to over-provision baseband processing at cell sites. Alternatively, the vRAN increases/decreases BBU capacity by creating/destroying virtual machine (VMs) on-the-fly.

  2. Reduce outage impact If a cell site's baseband processing fails, service will be interrupted until a field service engineer is dispatched on-site to fix the equipment. Avoiding a truckroll, the vRAN implements local failover, through which baseband processing is migrated to another server without dropping the call.

Content/Application Delivery Optimization

  1. Video Streaming (consumer use case) Traditional cell sites don’t have the capability to run a variety of applications. On the other hand, vRAN is designed to host different virtualized functions/applications. Our demo shows how the vRAN can perform content delivery network (CDN) functions at the network edge, thereby pushing video content at higher bit rate and improving the user experience over cloud-based CDNs.

  2. Video Conferencing (enterprise use case) The signals for mobile users on a conference call must go through the whole operator network, creating delay and consuming bandwidth. But since the vRAN can run in the same data center as a video conference application, signals just pass through that vRAN node when the attendees are within the same serving area.

Come Visit Us!

Let us show you our live demo and answer your questions. Visit us at MWC 2015 - Hall 3, stand # 3D30.