September 13, 2022
US operator Verizon has rolled out more than 8,000 virtualised RAN sites and plans to more than double that deployment in the next three years.
The company said its latest vRAN milestone puts it on the road to rolling out 20,000 virtualised cell sites by the end of 2025.
VRAN is about flexibility, essentially. As Verizon itself notes, virtualisation enables it to respond faster to the varying latency and computing requirements of its customers, and allows it to roll out new products and services more quickly. It’s a stepping stone on the way to cloud-based infrastructure and all that promises in the 5G era, be it cost-efficiency, scalability, and that crucial flexibility.
“Even while driving the most aggressive network deployment in our company’s history, we know giving people access to 5G is only part of the winning equation,” said Adam Koeppe, SVP of Planning and Technology at Verizon. Which is essentially a wordy way of saying that 5G is not solely about allowing consumers to connect to a faster mobile network.
Whether there’s a dig in there at rival T-Mobile US only Verizon’s marketing team knows.
That said, Verizon too wants to spread the word about the speeds it can offer on 5G… albeit without actually sharing any hard data.
The telco this week got a bit excited about its latest lab trials of C-band spectrum, explaining that it has used 200 MHz of C-band spectrum to “provide remarkable 5G speeds and performance.” Frustratingly, it did not go into any further details on these speed and performance benefits, but adding more spectrum has got to signify progress.
Indeed, the announcement comes just a couple of months after the telco revealed it was deploying 100 MHz of C-band spectrum in some US markets, an upgrade from the 60 MHz it had rolled out previously. It did not quantify its claims of better performance in that announcement either.
“Imagine adding several more lanes to a highway,” Koeppe said. “The more lanes, the more cars can get on and off the interstate and the faster they can drive.”
Presumably time will tell just how fast.
Verizon has 140 MHz-200 MHz of C-band spectrum in all available markets, but it has not yet all been cleared by the satellite companies. Its starting point was 60 MHz of spectrum deployed in the first 46 areas, but it hasn’t shared much data since then, other than to say it will go to 200 MHz wherever it can, when it can. Further, all the equipment it is currently deploying today is capable of operating with the full 200 MHz.
In the meantime, Verizon is beefiing up its mobile sites with fibre.
The telco said that close to 48% of its cell sites are now connected with its own fibre and it is on target to hit 50% by the end of the year.
“Fiber networks play a largely unseen, but essential role in connectivity, enabling ultra-high capacity, speed and low latency data transfer for 4G LTE and 5G networks,” Verizon said. “Equally unheralded is fiber’s role as the backbone of IP and virtualized networks that streamline operations, reduce operating costs and improve agility for network providers, businesses and consumers alike.”
Indeed. While this raft of announcements from Verizon is in essence a marketing push, the telco is sending a fairly strong message that it is working on the full package when it comes to future connectivity. There is still some way to go. VRAN will help pave the way for Open RAN, for example, while there is more to come from the operator on Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), both points alluded to in the VRAN statement.
For now, Verizon has demonstrated that there’s more to being a 5G operator than flogging new iPhones to consumers with the promise of a faster network. It might not be there yet, but it knows where it needs to be.
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