Alcatel-Lucent completed what it claims is the first live trial of network function virtualization, which moves cell coordination and interference management into the cloud.
The company partnered with China Mobile on the trial, which tested a virtualized radio access network over four square kilometers on the campus of Tsinghua University in Beijing. The network exhibited dynamic load balancing based changing wireless traffic patterns of around 31,000 students indoors and outdoors.
The technology is based on the concept of Cloud-RAN, with distributed radio access points linked to a central programmable platform that carries out network processing virtually. Alcatel-Lucent shifted the network control functions to virtual machines located in the cloud, where enhanced cell coordination and interference management occurs.
The vRAN concept is considered a core network architecture, connecting a large number of distributed radio receivers to a centralized baseband-unit (BBU) pool. The network shifts certain BBU processing functions away from the radio receivers on the network edge and into cloud-based data servers and vice-versa.
vRAN is also designed to navigate a heterogeneous infrastructure populated by small cells, macrocell base stations, and Wi-Fi access points. vRAN technology combines these heterogeneous resources into a common resource, which can be distributed based on the processing loads at each cell.