Unprecedented challenges in the telecommunications industry are putting immense pressure on communication service providers (CSPs) to rethink every part of their network — from edge to core. Not least of which is the radio access network (RAN), which has long been the most expensive part of a telco's network and figures to remain as such given the disaggregation and virtualization standards taking place under 5G.

There's no getting around it. Modernizing the RAN will be a generational investment made by service providers and one they hope will pay dividends by driving 5G-based revenue for decades to come

But time is of the essence. Industry consolidation and competition from startups and web-scalers means service providers need a path to monetization as quickly as possible. 

VMware's Telco Cloud Platform Radio Access Network (TCP RAN) delivers a streamlined path for such modernization. TCP RAN is designed for CSPs to run virtualized workloads of legacy RAN, virtualized RAN (vRAN), and Open RAN (O-RAN). Effectively, it gives service providers a bridge between legacy infrastructure and virtualized, open architectures.

TCP RAN also provides lifecycle management and automation of network functions and Tanzu for various data centers, edge sites and cell site locations.

As a systems integrator of VMware Telco Cloud products, WWT has designed and deployed the TCP RAN solution in our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) and completed the certification of the lab by VMware engineering. 

Our lab, alongside other VMware Telco Cloud labs such our Converged Edge Platform — a multi-purpose solution that offers a repeatable, scalable approach to 5G for enterprises to more quickly consume CSP services — gives customers and other vendors the ability to test the TCP RAN solution by requesting a demonstration from WWT TCP RAN experts, validate a use case through our Innovation Studio, or operate a dedicated proof of concept.

The ATC designed lab for TCP RAN includes regional data center site design consisting of a management domain and resource domain. Tanzu workload clusters created by telco cloud automation stretch to two cell sites for hosting RAN functions at the RDC and cell site.

Deployment architecture of TCP RAN 1.0
Deployment architecture of TCP RAN 1.0 

Each cell site configured contains a single host, as directed in the VMware Reference Architecture. The host is capable of supporting RAN functions using 10/25GbE network cards, but also includes Intel N3000 FPGA Programmable Acceleration Cards to offer SmartNIC platform technology to the workloads. As the Precision Time Protocol requires a dedicated NIC, a single port will be used for PTP synch. 

TCP RAN cell site hosts.
TCP RAN cell site hosts.

In addition to the TCP RAN software components deployed, VMware Telco Cloud Operations provides Day 2 operational management for automated service assurance of physical and virtual networks used by TCP RAN.

Components of TCP RAN 

  • VMware ESXi 7.0 U2
  • VMware Telco Cloud Automation 1.9
  • VMware Tanzu Basic for RAN

Mandatory Add-On Components

  • VMware vCenter 7.0 U2

Leveraging VMware Telco Cloud Automation (TCA), administrators can quickly deploy RAN workloads to Tanzu worker nodes in a container and deliver full lifecycle management with Day 2 operations. Using Photon OS for the worker nodes allows for features such as NUMA, DPDK and SR-IOV to be applied to RAN functions and is based on Kubernetes versions up to 1.20.4.  

TCA is an orchestrator that accelerates time to market for network functions and services while igniting operational agility through simplified automation — across any network and any cloud — and enables multi‐cloud placement, easing workload instantiation and mobility through intelligent and policy-based placement of network services against multiple types of cloud instances. 

TCA also integrates with any multi‐vendor MANO architecture, including VNF managers from network equipment vendors. This is based on the complete ETSI MANO-SOL interoperability that TCA is providing.

A TCP RAN design can contain several different scenarios on location placement and where the RAN workloads operate. For example, a virtualized central unit (vCU) may operate within the regional data center (RDC) for one deployment but might be located at the cell site on the same host as the virtualized distributed unit (vDU).

TCP RAN reference architecture.
TCP RAN reference architecture.

As service providers continue to adopt disaggregated, virtualized solutions that enable speed and agility, web-scale networking solutions are no longer merely nice to have, they are table stakes for operators looking to thrive in the next generation of the economy. 

Open, virtualized RAN replaces legacy, single-vendor RAN with a stable, scalable and 5G-ready architecture that allows for a more efficient network that optimizes performance, enables more agile service delivery to end customers and reduces operational expenditures. 

Further, open, cloud-based RAN is essential to realizing the potential of 5G networks by providing: 

  • Improved global supply chain practice.
  • Faster feature delivery and time to market.
  • Improved overall user experience.
  • Reduced operational expenditures through superior automation and power management.
  • Enhanced revenue from new business models through API enablement

Innovation in mobile networking and Open RAN is continuing at a rapid pace. Most service providers need help accelerating the integration and adoption of Open RAN to realize these benefits. 

Systems integrators, such as WWT, help eliminate this gap and enable operators to quickly adopt new, open architectures, such as VMware's Telco Cloud Platform RAN to increase their competitiveness.