Two worlds are meeting as parallel technologies advance: cloud-native applications, and the disaggregation of functions for radio access networks (RANs). In both cases the platform technologies are mature enough to converge in a production environment. This unlocks new opportunities for communications service providers (CSPs) to gain competitive edge through faster innovation and greater flexibility, and they are exploring these in earnest. Nokia’s Jane Rygaard, Head of Dedicated Wireless Networks and Edge Clouds, and Red Hat CTO Chris Wright discussed this recently in an interview with Telecom TV: Accelerating cloud RAN technology innovation in the 5G era.
To support this journey, Nokia and Red Hat have been collaborating to get cloud RAN solutions ready for live action in networks and seamless interaction with the wider ecosystem of cloud environments. Since we demonstrated an end-to-end 5G data call together in 2021 using Nokia’s 5G Cloud RAN running on Red Hat OpenShift, we have been conducting lab testing and proof of concepts (POCs) ongoing. Our teams have been working to tightly and securely integrate RAN components with the capabilities of the underlying container-based architecture and we now have Nokia Cloud RAN up and running on Red Hat OpenShift.
Our unified goal is to help CSPs meet their unique business objectives by providing them with best of breed components to build into their networks. The two companies bring complementary expertise: Nokia’s experience of optimizing network functions in connection with the wider network, including the cloudification of telco applications, is augmented by Red Hat’s deep understanding of cloud infrastructure and the enterprise applications experience. Both partners have a history of working in open source communities and translating that innovation to carrier grade and enterprise grade solutions. The collaboration is informed by shared values that focus on people, such as open collaboration and a culture of freedom and trust balanced by accountability.
Now we know the technology works, what is the impact?
Cloud RAN can deliver a boost to network versatility and agility, accelerate introduction of new radio features, and enable shared infrastructure with other edge services, such as RAN intelligent controllers (RICs), multi-access edge computing (MEC) or fixed-wireless access (FWA). Infrastructure sharing helps to reduce costs, increase service scalability and facilitate application portability for streamlined operations and customer experience.
This solution lays the flexible foundation for as-yet unimaginable future use cases that can change businesses, industries and lives, as has happened with each new generation of technology.
For now though, there are plenty of ripe opportunities created by the evolution of RAN in concert with cloud-native application development. Private 5G in enterprise and industry is one: lowering latency from the telco edge through to the device edge, from ports to hospitals to farms. Moving compute power closer to the producers and consumers of data has many applications. As these roll out, the data will feed machine learning and AI to generate insights that will help us build smarter infrastructure, smarter cities and smarter societies.
Red Hat and Nokia are set to continue close collaboration with customers on deployments. As ever, learnings from these will inform our contributions in open source communities to ensure we deliver continuous improvements and innovation for cloud RAN deployments. This includes sustainability efforts: one example of how power consumption might be reduced in the RAN is influencing network applications to turn off when not in use, leveraging hardware features as well as cloud-native design.
Ultimately, our collaboration continues to focus not only on the immediate technical outcomes but always the wider implications of how we connect as people and how we operate as businesses to make sure that what we are building meets the needs of the world around us.
About the author
Cristian Mandras has been working for the last 20 years in the Telco industry, mainly on cloud architecture for radio and core network functions. In his previous role as Chief Architect at Nokia, he managed the architecture specification to build the cloud infrastructure with relevant telco grade features to support Nokia’s real-time radio and core network functions.