Parallel Wireless fights for Open RAN leadership with Peruvian win

Parallel Wireless is arguably carving out a leadership position in the increasingly popular Open RAN movement as it bags another contract in Peru.

The likes of Mavenir, NEC, Altiostar and Cisco are all vying for attention as the new infrastructure trend gathers steam, but it is Parallel Wireless who’s name keeps popping up all over the world. This week, the vendor has announced an agreement with Internet para Todos Perú (IpT Peru), a new telco owned by Telefonica, Facebook, IDB Invest and CAF.

“We have selected Parallel Wireless Open RAN to help us reduce our network deployment costs through disaggregation of hardware and software, RAN and core virtualization and network automation with real-time SON for deployments across Latin America and 5G readiness,” said Renan Ruiz, CTO of IpT.

“We are proud to have been selected for these deployments in Latin America to deliver quality wireless services to the end users and businesses through better communication and collaboration between ‘development’ and ‘operations’ groups by enabling the CI/CD based operating model,” said Steve Papa, CEO of Parallel Wireless. “The end goal is to help global MNOs build and release software at high velocity. without making extensive capital investments or incur ongoing maintenance cost associated with legacy network deployments.”

The new telco, IpT, is an effort by the four players to seek revenues in a market which has been notoriously difficult to find success. South America is another region where the digital divide is very evident, though with new technologies gaining maturity, connectivity is becoming more of a commercial reality.

While it may seem unusual to see Facebook associated with these projects, the social media giant has been the driving force behind the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), an organisation where the mission is to deliver the internet to all. Part of this mission is Open RAN, to decouple hardware from software in the network, helping to reduce deployment costs and improve maintenance.

When you tie all of these elements together, it means internet for more people. And internet for more people means more advertising opportunities for Facebook and its customers. As you can only serve so many ads to a single user without destroying the experience, Facebook has to introduce more services and attract more users to continue growth. It is attempting to do both, and Open RAN is proving to be an important component to ‘connect the next billion users’.

Irrelevant as to whether the ambitions of these projects are philanthropic or commercial, the end result is more people accessing the digital economy, which shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. Open RAN is increasingly becoming a mature technology, and while it might not be ready for the more developed markets where telcos still rely on the resilience of the tried and tested traditional RAN, there is traction in the developing markets.

Looking around the world, Parallel Wireless does seem to be one of the more popular vendors in these embryonic test beds.

With Vodafone, Parallel Wireless has been drafted in to help run trials in the UK business and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is also one of the partners drafted in to help MTN deploy OpenRAN over 5,000 sites in 21 markets and was also recently named as the main partner for Etisalat to trial the technology across its markets in Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Mavenir, Cisco and NEC might be making a significant amount of noise in the press for OpenRAN, though Parallel Wireless seems to be making more waves with deals and active trials. It is always worth noting that not all deals and trials will be proclaimed from the treetops, on the evidence which is available to use Parallel Wireless has arguably taken an early leadership position.

Interview with Jorge Tello, Core Network Specialist at Entel Peru

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Francesca Greane, Marketing, Content and Community Lead for 5G Latin America 2020, spoke with Jorge Tello – Core Network Specialist at Entel Peru – who took some time to answer questions around how operators can advance their 5G journey in Latin America.

5G Latin America: What is your advice for other operators looking to simplify their network transformation today?

Jorge Tello (JT): They should start to consider the cloudification of the network, because the future network will become more flexible, agile, converged and open. “Three Clouds” as China Telecom has called, is an abbreviation for logic architecture of 5G network and includes three logic domains: Access Cloud, Control Cloud and Forwarding Cloud. This “Three Cloud” concept stated by China Telecom, is now known as a “End to End Network Slicing”

5G network based on “Three Cloud” will be flexible and converged. Control Cloud will have functions such as policy control, session management, mobility management, policy management, information management, service-based capability exposure, and realize customized network and services. Access Cloud will support smart radio access for users and efficiently converge multiple access technologies. Edge computing y converge multiple access technologies. Edge computing is also provided. Forwarding Cloud will effectively forward and transmit different traffic and ensure end-to-end quality of services based on path management and resource scheduling of Control Cloud. “Three Clouds” 5G network architecture is inseparable and collaborative and can be implemented on the basis of SDN/NFV.

5G Latin America: What challenges might they face? What is your advice for overcoming these challenges?

JT: There are many challenges that an operator might face, that includes:

  1. Challenges of radio chipset: 5G achieves higher throughput and lower user plane delay by adopting shorter scheduling interval and faster HARQ feedback, which requires higher baseband processing capability of 5G system and terminal, and consequently leads to more challenges on the baseband chip technique.
  2. Challenges of multi-access convergence: Mobile communication system has experienced rapid development from the first generation to the fourth generation. The commercial network gradually forms a complex situation of multiple radio technologies, diverse spectrum utilization and different coverage, while long term coexistence of multiple access technologies become a prominent characteristic. In 5G era, several types of networks in an operator will coexist for a long time, including 4G, 5G and WLAN. How to efficiently run and maintain different networks, reduce operation and maintenance cost, realize energy conservation, and improve competitiveness become the problem that every operator needs to solve.
  3. Challenges of flexible network architecture: The service driven 5G network architecture aims to flexibly and efficiently meet diversified mobile service requirements, which pose challenges including network diversified mobile service requirements, which pose challenges including network functions, architecture, resources and routing. Based on NFV/SDN and cloud native technology, 5G achieve virtualized and cloudified deployment. However, the container standards are not yet clear and still in the middle stage. The 5G network cloudified deployment must figure out how to meet the requirements of user plane forwarding and provide enough isolation. Combining network modularization and control and forwarding separation, service oriented 5G network can be rapidly deployed according to different service requirements, dynamically scale-in and scale-out , and lifecycle management of network slices, such as end to end flexible network slicing, adaptive scheduling of service routes and flexible allocation of network resources, and cross domain, cross platform, cross vendor, and even cross operator services , all of which pose great challenges to 5G network operation and management.
  4. Challenges of efficient bearer technology: Compared to 4G network, 5G network bandwidth demand is increasing exponentially. 5G scenarios impose high requirements on bearer network bandwidth, latency, flexibility and cost. Reducing the cost of 25G/50G optical modules and WDM transmission at the edge is a big challenge for bearer network.
  5. Challenges of terminals: Compared with 4G terminals, 5G terminals become more complex, having diversified types and differentiated techniques. The initial form of 5G terminals is dominated by mobile phones in eMBB, and the planning for the remaining scenarios (such as URLLC and mMTC) will gradually become clear with the maturity of the standard and industry.

As we saw there are many challenges that could appear depending of the operator’s strategy. From Core Network perspective, the biggest challenge is the End-to-End orchestration of the network in order to get the flexibility and the efficiency required by 5G. How to overcome this challenge will depend of the early deployment of an E2E orchestrator that manages the VNF lifecycle and cooperate with the SDN technology. Network slicing can only be achieved after NFV/SDN is implemented. Different slices rely on NFV and SDN to be created through a shared physical/virtual resource pool. Now operators in Germany, China and Japan has already started to deploy an End-to-End orchestrator for their networks paving the way for a true 5G system.

5G Latin America: In your opinion, what are the next steps in RAN evolution and strategy?

JT: RAN is not my speciality, I am a Core Network guy, but following the current trend of the technology as it was mentioned in the first question, we need to cloudify the RAN which is also known as C-RAN. The Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN) software converts the wireless access network functions into virtualization functions and deploys them in a standard cloud environment. The C-RAN concept was developed from a centralized RAN with the goal of increasing design flexibility and computational scalability, improving energy efficiency and reducing integration costs. In the C-RAN framework, the BBU function is virtualized, centralized, and pooled. The RRU and the antenna are deployed in a distributed manner. The RRU connects to the BBU pool through the pre-transmission network. The BBU pool can share resources and flexibly allocate processing from each RRU.

5G Latin America: How do you view network automation in today’s 5G ecosystem? How might it increase agility and visibility on operators

Right now, network automation for the purpose of E2E network slicing is in its early phase. Only a few vendors offer an E2E orchestrator (Mavenir and NEC), and the major telco vendors (Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia) have in their roadmap this technology. But this is only the first part, since 5G introduces the network slicing, which is about transforming the network/system from a static “one size fits all” paradigm, to a new paradigm where logical networks partitions are created, with appropriate isolation, resources and optimized topology to serve a particular purpose or service category or even individual customers. Once this automation is fulfilled, the flexibility and agility will be the result, which is the aim of 5G systems.

5G Latin America: What do you see as other key technologies for 5G? What are the role of the likes of NFV, Cloud Native and Edge?

5G network technologies are mainly divided into three categories: core networks, backhaul and fronthaul networks, and wireless access networks. Key technologies of the core network include: Network Function Virtualization (NFV), Software Defined Network (SDN), Network Slicing, and Multiple Access Edge Computing (MEC).

In my opinion, the key technologies for 5G will be:

  • Network Slicing: scenarios for network mobility, security, latency, reliability, and even billing methods. The requirements are different. Therefore, a physical network needs to be divided into multiple virtual networks, each of which faces different application scenarios. Virtual networks are logically independent and do not affect each other.
  • Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is a cloud-based IT computing and storage environment at the edge of the network. It enables data storage and computing power to be deployed closer to the user’s edge, reducing network latency and better providing low latency, high bandwidth applications.
  • Device-to-device communication (D2D) means that data transmission does not pass through the base station but allows one mobile terminal device to communicate directly with another mobile terminal device. D2D originated from the 4G era and is called LTE Proximity Services (ProSe) technology. It is a short-range communication technology based on 3GPP communication system, which mainly includes two major functions:
    • Direct discovery, direct connection discovery function, the terminal finds that there are terminals directly connected to it;
    • Direct communication, and data interaction with surrounding terminals.

In the 4G era, D2D communication is mainly used in the public security field. In the 5G era, IoT applications such as car networking, autonomous driving, and wearable devices will be greatly developed. The application range of D2D communication will be greatly expanded, but it will face security and resource allocation fairness challenges.

Now, what is the role of NFV, SDN and cloud native in all this? Well, Network slicing can only be achieved after NFV/SDN is implemented. According to 3GPP TS 23.501 a Network Slice is a logical network that provides specific network capabilities and network characteristics. And a Network Slice instance is a set of Network Function instances and the required resources (e.g. compute, storage and networking resources) which form a deployed Network Slice.

Network slices are network instances for individual customers and are enabled by Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), cloud technologies, automation, end-to-end service provisioning and orchestration. Virtualization enables separation of the software from the hardware to implement many functions on common infrastructure. SDN enables dynamic capacity planning, routing and service chaining, based on real-time needs. Finally, orchestration allows end-to-end slice management during its lifecycle.

 

Jorge Tello will be speaking on the ‘Strategies to Simplify Your Network Transformation’ Panel at 5G Latin America 2020 (27-29 April, Brazil). Joining a speaker line-up made up of leading experts from operators such as Oi, Claro, TIM Brazil and BT, as well as key industry analysts and regulators, you can get your ticket to see Jorge – and all 40 of our speakers – at the only event in Latin America dedicated to 5G by clicking here.  

Google Loon up-and-floating to aid Peru earthquakes

Commercial contract negotiations with Telefonica Peru have allowed Google’s Loon to respond to Amazonian earthquakes within 48-hours of receiving the call.

While the prospect of delivering connectivity via hot air balloons might baffle some, Google’s old-school approach is proving it has a valid and justified place in the digital world. Not only can the balloons deliver connectivity to underserved and commercially-unattractive regions, but the fleet can be quickly mobilised to assist in areas hit by natural disasters.

“Over the past few months, we have been in negotiations with Telefónica on a commercial contract that would utilize Loon’s balloons to extend mobile internet access to unserved and underserved areas of Peru, specifically remote parts of the Amazon region,” Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth wrote on Medium.

“On Sunday morning, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck the region. After requests from the government of Peru and Telefónica, we quickly re-directed a group of balloons to the impacted area. Early Tuesday morning, the first balloons arrived and began serving LTE to users below.”

While many might see the internet and the digital euphoria as somewhat of a first-world luxury, connectivity is being interwoven into the foundations of society. Disaster management is only enhanced by technological break-throughs, from drones delivering supplies, big data analytics to assess real-time updates, or basic means of communication, connectivity is crucial in every aspect of the efforts.

Following the earthquake in Peru this weekend, Loon was able to establish a network over the affected region within 48-hours. This is not the first time Loon has responded to such an incident, but this time, due to on-going commercial discussions with Telefonica Peru, Loon was already integrated into the MNOs network allowing such a quick response.

Back in 2017, Loon once again aided the Peruvian Government following flooding in the Northern regions of the country. In Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, it took four weeks to deliver a service to the impacted areas with AT&T and T-Mobile. The speed of response this time around was down to already progressing conversations with Telefonica Peru.

“It takes a lot of planning and setup to make balloon-powered internet work,” said Westgarth. “Before we can begin providing service, we need to install ground infrastructure, integrate with a mobile network operator’s (MNO) network, secure regulatory and overflights approvals, and of course launch balloons and navigate them to a desired location.”

The issue which Loon might face in the future is being pigeon holed into a niche aspect of the connectivity mix.

There is of course nothing wrong with being the first-choice option to assist with recovery efforts following a natural disaster, but the team will want to be known for more than that. Loon has ambitions to become one of the key jigsaw pieces in delivering a connectivity solution across society consistently, not only when worst-case scenarios present themselves.

In September, during the AfricaCom conference, Westgarth took to the stage to outline the ambitions of the Loon business. Westgarth pointed out that this is not a suitable substitute for traditional infrastructure, but an opportunity to enhance coverage. The balloons can offer a cost-effective and time-efficient alternative to traditional infrastructure. It might not be as attractive from a technology perspective as fibre or 5G, but it is more realistic.

In proving its effectiveness of Loon in aiding disaster management efforts, Loon might be encouraging people to overlook the opportunities which are available to enhance connectivity in everyday life.

What is worth noting is this is not just an option for the developing markets, but also for the developed ones as well.

In the larger countries, the US for example, delivering connectivity to the rural communities is an on-going challenge. While this might be satisfied over the coming years, there are still regions which will be not-spots where there is no population. The commercial case for traditional connectivity might not ever be justified for some of these regions, though IOT usecases might emerge in the coming years. This is where alternative connectivity solutions, such as satellite or Loon, could plug the gap.

In the developing markets, the business case for Loon as a consistent connectivity option is much more obvious. With ARPU considerably lower, justifying network deployment in the more traditional sense becomes much more difficult. Loon can provide a more feasible alternative.

Loon is crafting itself a useful niche which will appeal to numerous countries who have a history of being impacted by natural disasters, but it will have to be careful not to pigeon-hole itself into this nice.