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Cloud RAN

Telecom Italia kicks off Europe’s first C-RAN trials with Huawei

East Asian operators continue to pull away from the rest of the world in advanced network deployments, but this week Europe has clawed back some ground – with Telecom Italia rolling out the continent’s first live Cloud-RAN trials, using technology from Huawei.

Telecom Italia recently completed successful trial runs with Huawei’s Cloud-RAN technology in its Turin-based TIM Lab, achieving “excellent results” – and has now chosen the city of Palermo to carry out tests on live network base stations. The trials will reportedly offer download speeds of 300Mbps to existing Telecom Italia customers in the region.

The operator’s focus in these trials is on creating a more efficient 4G network architecture, or “intelligent 4G” as it calls it. It will also use the trials to evaluate how Cloud-RAN will factor into the development of future 5G technologies. Cloud-RAN, along with SDN (software-defined networking) and other new architectures, will be key to the design of next generation networks – and could see cellular networks becoming almost unrecognizable compared to what is deployed today.

Huawei’s  Cloud-RAN technology has centralized baseband units (BBUs), shared by multiple cell sites,  which reduces network construction costs, and improves performance at cell edges. Essentially, Cloud-RAN should mean that the outlying installation costs per site will fall dramatically, while also providing a better user experience of mobile broadband services, and the capability to manage and secure the network more efficiently from a central point

China Mobile is undoubtedly the pioneer of Cloud-RAN, and is one of the founding members of the IEEE group focused on the topic, along with Telecom Italia, AT&T and SK Telecom. That group is currently working on a standard which will be crucial in the mainstream adoption of C-RAN.

China Mobile has worked with Huawei as well as rival Chinese technology giant ZTE, Alcatel-Lucent (now Nokia) and Intel in promoting and trialling Cloud-RAN. ZTE is central to China Mobile’s current round of 5G trials, and the operator’s research arm, China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI), also recently partnered with Huawei to develop a 5G prototype. The prototype delivers 3Gbps throughput in the 3.5 GHz band, and the companies are now working on a 10Gbps version.

ZTE recently made a significant announcement about its own Cloud-RAN architecture for 5G-ready deployments, integrating all connectivity modes from 2G to 4G, plus WiFi and specialized IoT networks. It claims this  solution will be commercially deployed for 4G in Q2 next year, and will also provide a migration path to 5G or hybrid networks.

Just last week Spanish incumbent Telefonica signed a deal with Huawei to collaborate on advancing technologies including Cloud-RAN, 5G radio and core architectures, and MIMO.

Iin other recent Cloud-RAN news, Samsung has newly upgraded its C-RAN platform to version 2.0+, integrating new SON (self-optimizing network) capabilities to detect interference at the cell edge and control radio transmission power in real time, claiming to boost data throughput by an average of 40-50%.

“We are particularly satisfied of launching this trial in Palermo, demonstrating the value of Cloud-RAN architecture. This innovative technology is part of TIM’s path towards becoming a Digital Telco, securing to its clients a high quality user experience on digital new network technologies – such as Cloud-RAN – to guarantee customer satisfaction and create value through network solution that are both technologically innovative and efficient,” said Gabriela Styf Sjoman, Head of TIM Lab.

“Huawei is committed to creating maximum value for telecom operators through continuous innovation to meet the requirements for network development. The Cloud-RAN solution provides innovative network architecture to enhance network cloudification and agility. Huawei has historically enjoyed mutually beneficial cooperation with TIM in the fields of Cloud-RAN and 4.5G and is set to write new chapters in comprehensive digital transformation and MBB2020 network evolution,” said Yang Chaobin, CMO of Huawei Wireless Network Product Line.

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