By 2025, global mobile data traffic is expected to be around 160 exabytes – massive growth that is going to demand whole new levels of network flexibility. In this episode of the Ericsson News Podcast, Per Narvinger, Head of Product Area Networks, talks about a new Cloud RAN offering from Ericsson that's enabling an agile approach to designing, scaling and deploying of mobile networks.
Host: Per Narvinger, thank you very much for joining for this podcast.
Per: Thanks David. Thanks for having me.
Host: So, we're going to talk about Ericsson's new Cloud RAN offering in a minute, but first I'd like to widen the lens a bit. Can you tell us where we are with 5G at the moment?
Per: Yes, of course. So, 5G is here, it's definitely happening. So, today there's more than 100 5G networks in commercial service and out of those Ericsson is powering close to 70, across five continents and people and enterprises are beginning to really experience the benefits of 5G wireless service for the first time.
This year, of course, we see 5G scaling up. We estimate close to 190 million subscriptions by the end of the year. And by 2025, there'll be close to 3 billion 5G users worldwide. So, this makes the fastest wireless generation to be implemented ever. The world will also be changing with the new use cases and applications. We will create, consume more data and more video this year than ever before. We will begin to work with more AI, augmented reality and virtual reality.
We even are playing with hologram concepts these days. Similarly, home connectivity is super important. So, it doesn't really matter if it's cable, fiber or wireless. The need is larger than ever. And even industries are starting to bring 5G to life. So, the way we see it that with 5G we are moving technology boundaries forward to enable these amazing use cases.
And we still feel we are just at the beginning. The research and development and the innovations, the pace we're seeing has never been as fast as now. And still we see so much potential as we move towards the future. So now it's really key to let the wider ecosystem of developers and enterprises to get an early access to 5G networks. So they will innovate and by doing so realize the full potential of 5G.
Per Narvinger, Head of Product Area Networks, Ericsson, talks about the new Cloud RAN offering in the latest episode of the Ericsson News Podcast.
Host: So Per, you mentioned the larger ecosystem of developers and enterprises, and I'm wondering what role will open standards play in that ecosystem. And then also, you know, what will these more open networks look like in the future?
Per: That's a good question. So, openness comes in many different shapes and forms. So, we should remember that current mobile communication is based on, I would say, we have a culture of shared innovation and this has really shaped the technology, I understand as mobile networks. And I think particular, of course, the success of the 3GPP organization, where we have more than 700 companies collaborating today. And this is what has enabled 8 billion mobile connections.
And there are more people today using mobile phones than a toothbrush and wireless communication is by far the most successful consumer technology in history. So, 5G should continue to build on that success and 5G is also made for open innovation, and it was designed to be open from the start and there is in 3GPP there's more than 100 open interfaces. And very importantly, there is a very strong and established IPR framework in place.
And this is actually key for allowing full interoperability in the ecosystem, including devices and the network to scale, which actually has been the success of our industry. Then there of course other forums and open source projects where we are actively engaged. I mean, there is ONAP and O-RAN Alliance and we are there, and this will also of course impact how the networks evolve here. So, in the years to come networks will gradually evolve as with all current open standards. And also, in the near future, we will see automation, virtualization and cloud technology specifically complementing what is today purpose built high performing solutions in the mobile networks. And this step will then enable service providers to deploy new service quickly, easily, and scale that then simply incredible pace.
Host: I'd like to continue on the discussion of openness because we've heard a lot about open RAN recently. It's something you just mentioned. And I'm wondering if you could first explain where we are today, what a purpose-built network look like and how will open Radio Access Networks differ from those?
Per: Yes, it's good. There are a lot of different terms being used in the industry. So, typically open RAN is used as an industry term for open Radio Access Network architectures. So there we have open, interoperable interfaces and a hardware software desegregation. And with that, you enable big data, AI driven innovations in the RAN domain. And to realize this scale, it means that you leverage cloud technologies and of course the web scale paradigm, which leads us into what we call the Cloud RAN.
So, when we talk about Cloud RAN, it refers to us realizing the radio access network functions, on a generic compute platform. Today you do it with purpose built and you can do probably all the same things on purpose built, but you get a different type of scale of course, and this aggregation between software and hardware, and then you can manage your RAN applications according to cloud native principles.
So as RAN starts to adapt the use of cloud practices, it becomes a foundation for, for openness, and it will enable further innovation in 5G and future networks.
Host: So in short cloud RAN allows for new levels of flexibility in the design, scaling and deployment of telecom networks. And that brings us to Ericsson's new offering in this space. And it's called cloud RAN by Ericsson. It was announced on October 27th of this year. And I'd like to give you the opportunity just to talk a little bit more about that solution and tell us what it is?
Per: Of course! So, our new cloud RAN (radio access network) then will offer or enable communication service providers to add more flexibility and versatility to the networks. It is a cloud native software solution that then handle the compute functionality in the radio access network. And you can see it as the heart or the brain of the radio access network and cloud RAN will allow our customers then to capitalize on existing IT infrastructure, and it will enable them to address a variety of 5G use cases. And then of course there are many different use cases you can think of, but you could, for instance, indoor, enterprise, stadiums or other sites that will benefit from the ability to spread capacity dynamically during extreme peaks than in load. And this new offering then opens the door to really utilize web scale technology.
And that's an approach that has been used for delivering large scale cloud computing resources and infrastructure within an enterprise and IT environment, and benefit from cloud native design from application to infrastructure, and that brings a greater scalability, pooling, and it should also give a faster time to market for new services.
So, another thing here is that it also opens the door to a larger ecosystem because it will enable automation and RAN programmability and push new cloud innovations into the 5G space. And here we will then leverage what has also been done in other industries, given we are then on the same type of platform, but it will not of course happen overnight, it will be a long journey.
Host: From your perspective, what is the most new and exciting aspect of this launch and what are you most enthusiastic about?
Per: So, in the radio access network, it is competitional, very demanding. So, when you move to the cloud paradigm, it needs to be done in a cost-effective way. And to be honest that is what actually has prevented us from going there for many years, but with this now, this cloud native implementation that we have done, we are confident that for quite a few of these new use cases, it will be possible to run it in a cloud environment. And that means that we achieved a major technology milestone where we can get the hardware and software separation that then will enable deployment in quite a different way compared to what we had done in the past.
Host: If I understand this right, purpose-built has been the most cost-effective way of building networks and Cloud RAN will now complement those architectures to address diverse new use cases. That is why we are suggesting a phased approached to our customers.
Can you just elaborate on this approach?
Per: Sure. So, our cloud run solution would be released in stages. So we will then be matching the service providers journey to ensure that the service providers are ready to add it as a compliment to their existing purpose built 5G networks. And the first stage will provide a foundation. So it will be about offering a system verified solution for 5G low band and that will then enable an easy transition to virtualize RAN by using then commercial off the shelf or of course hardware platforms.
And this first stage includes Ericsson's new cloud RAN application software, but also radio gateway hardware that will set the foundation for future mid band rollouts. So this new radio gateways, they will enable full utilization of the installed base of remote radios, and they will be fully compatible of course with cloud RAN.
And cloud RAN, the portfolio, it will complement the purpose-built networks. So our cloud RAN portfolio is fully compatible with Ericsson radio systems portfolio, and it also supports our award-winning Ericsson spectrum sharing. So this solution, as many of you know, it's about how to maximize the utilization of spectrum assets regardless if it's 5G standalone or non-standalone environment.
So, it's really key, with cloud RAN, is that we will help our customers evolve the networks with future-proof technology while maximizing their investment, the networks investments that they already have made, and that they're making today.
Host: Per, just to be clear, we're continuing to invest in our current portfolio, correct?
Per: Yeah, correct. So as I said, we will actually have done complementing product lines, so we continue to invest and to make sure that we have the best possible purpose-built solutions, but we compliment it now with the cloud RAN offering. So some customers may choose to go for the cloud RAN, others might go for the purpose built. But we are then offering a very rich portfolio to our customers.
Host: I just have one more question actually before we wrap things up and that is how will consumers and enterprises benefit from our solution and what difference will they experience on a cloud RAN network?
Per: Yeah, I think we just need to think about this year. I think all events in 2020 have just been unprecedented, right? So, I would say connectivity has never played a more essential role in our lives. And over the past few months, we have seen an enormous shift in capacity needs. The networks have proven that they are highly resilient, and agility and speed will be essential for operators to meet the future needs of consumer enterprise customers.
So 5G provides innovative open network platform that offers all the benefits of previous technology generations. I mean, we have the resilience, robustness, security among many things, right? As well then, they have been designed for innovation and global scaling. And the way we see it that virtually no, nothing, no need in society today or industries that can't be met with this.
So, the industry will continue to drive time to deployment on the best solution for our customers and then helping our customers with their customers, and it gives them more choice for whatever deployment scenario need they have.
Host: Per Narvinger. Thank you very much for joining today. This was a really interesting discussion.
Per: Thank you very much for having me