Unpacking Nokia and Ericsson’s Strategies in Cloud RAN Acceleration

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The path to layer 1 acceleration in the Cloud RAN is subject to various views, with tech giants like Nokia and Ericsson opting for different strategies. Recently, Nokia proclaimed an industry-first trial, involving Finnish operator Elisa, of Cloud RAN equipped with In-Line acceleration, making a significant strategic move in their ‘anyRAN’ Cloud RAN direction.

The innovative trial engaged the 3.5 GHz band, a Nokia reference design, Red Hat’s container-as-a-service software, and an x86 server structure. However, the responsible silicon associates remained undisclosed. Across this initiative, Nokia seems committed to maintaining a strong parity between Cloud RAN and purpose-built RAN.

“This important trial with our long-term partner, Elisa, confirms the effectiveness and maturity of Nokia’s anyRAN approach and our open Cloud RAN architecture powered by In-Line L1 acceleration,” said Mark Atkinson, Head of RAN at Nokia. “Unlike other suppliers, we commit to feature parity between Cloud RAN and purpose-built RAN and we ensure that our customers can flexibly evolve to Cloud RAN with choices in Cloud infrastructure and data center hardware.”

The subtle competition amplified in the final statement seems to imply a clear rivalry, with industry followers identifying Ericsson as the likely counterpart. Ericsson inclines towards the alternative approach to layer 1 acceleration named ‘Look-Aside’.

Nokia’s whitepaper explains that the very concept of Cloud RAN is to enable baseband processing on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) server hardware, promising ‘typical cloud computing benefits’. The paper further deliberates on the two L1 acceleration options, stating that the so-called general purpose CPUs necessitate integrated Look-Aside accelerators, resulting in reduced efficiency compared to the In-Line route taken by Nokia.

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