SK Telecom deploys SDRAN in network with Nokia support

SK Telecom
Nokia has supported SK Telecom to implement the world’s first cloud-based SDRAN (Software-Defined RAN) – also known as Cloud RAN – in a commercial network.

SDRAN is a cloud-based radio access network and cloud base station equipped with IT technologies based on open architecture.

SDRAN enables traditional base station functions to be implemented on a general-purpose IT server, and its features include functional split between real time and non-real time processing functions, Ethernet-based interface, and intelligent operation.

Cloud RAN

A report in Research and Market estimates that global investments on C-RAN architecture networks will reach over $7 billion by the end of 2016. The C-RAN market is further expected to grow at a CAGR of nearly 20 percent between 2016 and 2020.

Mobile operators such as China Mobile, Orange, Verizon and Sprint are already investing in the technology.

Over $1 billion of all C-RAN architecture network investments will be directed towards 5G networks by the end of 2020. Virtualized BBUs will account for over 6 percent of all C-RAN BBU investments by 2020.

ABI Research says Radio Virtualization potential will reach $20 billion by 2020 as VRAN deployments take the fast lane on the road to 5G. Segments of the market which have been deploying C-RAN architectures for some time now are among the first to virtualize the RAN.

Cloud RAN technology

A split of the protocol in the baseband processing is the architecture of SDRAN, and this relegates parts of the DU (Digital Unit) functions to the RRU (Remote Radio Unit). By doing so, traffic can be scaled more effectively and multiple connectivity scenarios can be efficiently deployed without immediate additional investments in transport or baseband capacity.

Until now, a designated interface has been used for data transmission between the DU and the RRU, but with the new SDRAN, a broadly used Ethernet-based DU-RU interface is optimized for the communication environment and used for more efficient network configuration.

The interface also better handles signal delays, so that when a delay occurs, it adjusts the timing of data transmission and prevents a slowdown in transmission speed. Accordingly, customers benefit from better data quality.

By applying general IT technologies to an interface as well as base station processing, the new technology is expected to accelerate 5G network innovation that evolves beyond All IP toward All IT.

VU functions are applied for intelligent operation, which are used in IT virtualization (e.g. data center). A base station can self-detect systemic errors and automatically restore the VM. It dynamically generates or deletes the virtual resources of a base station, depending on the number of current users and traffic loads, for more efficient resource allocation. Service quality is likely to improve due to more stable network operation.

SDRAN will be able to offer third party edge services in connection with MEC (Mobile Edge Computing) that provide localized communication services. Since the network is implemented by software, it is easier and quicker to add new network functions. This would significantly shorten the time for delivering new technologies to customers.

By commercializing the virtual core network and SDRAN, SK Telecom is in a position in accomplishing the world’s first virtualization of LTE network as well as innovation of 5G network structure.

“Network innovation through convergence of telecom and IT is an urgent task to deal with explosive growth of data traffic. SK Telecom will continue to develop innovative technologies like SDRAN to lead the evolution toward next-generation network,” said Park Jin-hyo, head of Network R&D Center at SK Telecom.

Baburajan K