Ericsson launches new Open Lab for 5G vRAN

Ericsson has launched a new laboratory in Canada to interact and collaborate with customers and other 5G RAN partners, initially focusing on the Swedish provider’s Cloud RAN portfolio.

Located in Ottawa, the Ericsson Open Lab website includes 100 megahertz internal mid-range and 60 megahertz internal / external midrange for testing and collaboration.

During a briefing for media and investors, Eric Parsons, head of product development for Cloud RAN at Ericsson, said cloud RAN was the current focus, but the lab would serve other parts of Ericsson’s portfolio and ambitions for openness.

“We believe that virtualization and automation will play a key role,” Parsons said.

One of the main goals of the laboratory is fast and continuous feedback for customers. Ericsson wants to regularly show technical stages to customers and partners, not just major industrial events, Parsons said. (In 2020 and 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic forced Ericsson to retire MWC Barcelonawhich is usually the biggest show in the mobile industry.)

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The lab facilitates virtual meetings and enables Ericsson to display prototypes for early customer feedback.

The other main goal is ecosystem collaboration with access to beta configurations for shorter lead times to test new uses, with virtual demonstrations and tests. Ericsson is committed to implementing new scenarios for deploying and using scenarios with customers.

Initial partners of participating vendors include Intel, Red Hat, Nvidia and Wind River. The operators’ partners listed so far are KDDI, Ooredoo, Orange, Softbank and Turkcell.

Making a move

While operators around the world are exploring virtualization and open access network (RAN) architectures, leading equipment vendors have taken different approaches to openness.

Ericsson introduced Cloud RAN in October and Parsons said the provider is very focused on network automation and RAN intelligence, insisting on maintaining a set of O-RAN interfaces.

Industry analyst Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics, called Ericsson’s new Open Lab a smart move as the industry moves toward virtualization and openness.

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There is an awareness that “the train that turns the network into software is moving and there is no stopping,” he said. “If you stand in the way of progress, it doesn’t end very well for you.”

With Open Lab, Ericsson can attract both partners and collaborative operators.

“Here they have a lab where they can work with different companies in the ecosphere and show how important Ericsson is here,” Entner said. “This will position someone like Ericsson against companies like Huawei.”

Unlike Ericsson or Finnish competitor Nokia, Huawei did not appear at the open RAN station. While Ericsson does not face much competition from the Chinese in suppliers in the US or Canada, in other parts of the world.

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“Huawei, because the current supplier has the most to lose from this switch, because the software-defined network and open RAN is like the rebel’s weapon,” Enter said. And while in many regions Ericsson is seen as a traditional provider and incumbent, in some parts of the world Ericsson is definitely the challenge, he added.

Nokia has taken a stronger position of open RANand Entner said the Finnish provider needed to do more on this front than Ericsson because of its current position (which he categorized as a “heavy strait”) – but both needed to take the opportunity to make changes to the network architecture an advantage. .

He likened the current situation to the transition from horse-drawn carriages to cars.

“Are we investing in better horse-drawn carriages or better cars?” Inside positioned. “Given the past, the answer is logical.”

One place that Ericsson needs to catch up with is with companies like Rakuten Mobile RCP (Rakuten Communications Platform), but he believes that the Open Lab shows progress in this direction.

Extended range over time

Ericsson expects the scope of its Open Lab to grow over time as customer contributions and contributions increase.

In the short term, Ericsson’s cloud RAN customers will have early access to development path configurations and related test cases in the Open Lab.

“As we progress, this will become an idea for development and new ways of working between Ericsson and our customers,” Parsons said during the presentation.

This may include things like performance comparisons or sizing parameters based on customer-specific traffic patterns.

The early focus will be testing and demonstrations of Ericsson’s virtualized distributed device (vDU) for low and medium bandwidth, with a virtualized central device (vCU) starting in Q3. Towards the end of the year, in the fourth quarter and beyond, the network automation and related functions come into force.

Entner said that even with Open RAN, parts of the network like vRU, vDU or vCU are suitable, so it’s not a huge leap for a provider like Ericsson to open the interfaces between them to assemble network pieces.

“It simply came to our notice then [Ericsson] is on this path, “he said.