SK Telecom, Intel virtualise the base station

South Korean operator SK Telecom has teamed up with chip vendor Intel to cooperate on the development of a virtualised base station (vRAN) that can load and reconfigure all software functions in a general purpose server.

Hardware life-cycles are becoming shorter as innovation accelerates, reducing the return on investment of deploying new services and constraining innovation. Virtualisation of network functions aims to address these problems by evolving standard technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto high volume servers, switches and storage essentially running the virtual applications on commodity hardware.

Under the agreement, the two firms have agreed to build a base station test bed based on virtualisation technology and general purpose hardware. In addition they will undertake joint research on solutions to effectively address congested traffic in the in-building environment, as well as research on intelligent base stations and cloud base stations to drive the evolution of the next-generation wireless network.

According to SK Telecom, the vRAN base station makes use of universal hardware, such as computer CPUs, and loads all functions in the form of software. The operator likened the technology to installing and deleting applications in computers, adding that it is able to deploy and delete base station software that provides communication functions and intelligent services.

The operator added that the technology will also provide more scalability by applying standard interfaces to base station functions, adding that the vRAN system will reduce development time and support new technologies by upgrading software running on standard high volume servers.

SK Telecom also claims that it will be able to operate its network more efficiently using the vRAN technology by allocating base station resource in a flexible manner depending on the amount of traffic.

“With the aim to accommodate surging data traffic and secure differentiated competitiveness, SK Telecom has been making aggressive efforts to enhance its network structure by applying cutting-edge IT,” said Choi Jin-sung, executive VP and head of the ICT R&D division at SK Telecom. “Through this technical cooperation with Intel and successful development of the vRAN technology, we will take the lead in next-generation network evolution.”

Rose Schooler, VP and GM for Intel’s communications and storage infrastructure group added: “We are confident vRAN will significantly improve operator costs, efficiencies and services introduction, especially for indoor hot-spots, and we are looking forward to working closely with SK Telecom to deliver these capabilities.”

SK Telecom said Monday that it has begun offering faster LTE-A services using the 1.8GHz spectrum it acquired last month.

With its 35MHz of 1800MHz spectrum, SKT has split the allocation with 20MHz on the downlink and 15MHz on the uplink, allowing the company to upgrade its LTE download speeds to 150Mbps for all users of over 20 existing LTE devices including Vega Racer 2, Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5, without charging users any more. The operator plans to expand the service to cover the entire Seoul area by the end of October.

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