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Telefónica and Netsia slice and dice RAN

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Telefónica and Netsia have announced the successful integration of Netsia’s Virtual LTE RAN Platform into Telefónica’s Global Network Labs.

As part of Telefónica’s virtualization project UNICA, the pair have been working towards reproducing a Private LTE network with the ability to be sub-divided into multiple slices in Telefónica’s Madrid Labs. At RAN level, such a proposition can offer different performances, latencies, and radio resources to different sets of customers. As a result of this integration, it is believed SDN/NFV techniques can be applied to the RAN.

The product in question from Netsia is ProgRAN, which is described as a a programmable Software Defined Network (SDN)-based Radio Access Network framework. ProgRAN virtualizes the wireless channel resources allowing a remote controller to ‘slice the network’ into multiple virtual sub-networks.

“The integration of Netsia’s Virtual LTE RAN Platform into a commercial LTE core in our Labs is an important step forward to demonstrate that an end-to-end network slicing for 5G networks is possible, from the core to the RAN, and how it can be applied to specific service environments, like that of a virtual Private LTE network,” said Juan Carlos García, Telefónica’s Technology and Architecture Global Director.

“ProgRAN’s dynamic RAN slicing capability carries the potential to link network services to new commercial opportunities for operators”. Oguz Oktay, Netsia’s VP of Wireless Solutions. “ProgRAN allows RAN to programmatically adapt itself to different service requirements and customer experience needs.

“This means that an operator will be able to offer network functions to many different industries, such as IoT, healthcare or automotive, using a RAN-As-A-Service business model. Netsia’s virtual Private LTE platform integrated into Telefónica’s Global Network Labs using a commercial LTE core successfully demonstrates an example for how RAN slicing may be leveraged for new, revenue generating service opportunities.”

While it might sound very technical, and thusly relegated to the basement dwellers in the IT department, this is a useful step forward for network slicing advocates. A good usecase example is a hospital, where wireless resources are shared among doctors, patients, visitors, objects and other people. Should robotic surgery or AI applications for diagnosis be a realistic ambition, such separation of the airwaves would be seen as a critical step. After all, you wouldn’t want a cat video causing buffering in triple-bypass surgery.

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