Thursday 3 December 2020

Samsung Talks about TCO Optimization to Accelerate 5G Network Evolution

At IEEE Wireless Communications and Networking Conference (WCNC) 2020, Young Lee, Head of Network Architecture, Samsung Networks gave a keynote entitled “5G Network Evolution: Next Steps and Challenges.” The keynote emphasized the unbelievable rate of 5G deployment and coverage expansion, the 5G market status in Korea, the economic aspects of 5G deployment, and key technology drivers for 5G evolution. Some of the slides from that event is available here.

Young also wrote a couple of blog posts on "How to optimize total cost of ownership (TCO) to accelerate 5G network evolution". Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

The picture at the top of this post is a fantastic summary of the posts as it shows what contributes to the increase of cost and what helps in reducing the network costs. Before proceeding further, if you do not understand TCO then please check out tutorial out.

Part 1 looks at the different RAN deployment architectures as can be seen in the picture above. Quoting from the blog:

In D-RAN (Distributed RAN), the baseband is co-located with radio. All the baseband functions such as PHY, MAC, RLC, PDCP, and RRC/SDAP are done in the cell site. As basebands are centralized at Edge Cloud/DC, there is gain with simplified radio operation and site leasing cost reduction. In this sense, C-RAN is clearly a cost optimizer.

C-RAN (Centralized RAN) comes with a higher transport cost. As all baseband processing functions are moved to a central hub site, this creates a large amount of data overhead between radio and baseband. Thus, C-RAN requires a very high capacity fronthaul transport network where you may need more fibers and efficient packet switching that supports stringent synchronization. To maintain the gain by centralized architecture, C-RAN requires a fronthaul solution that is economical and technically viable to remain as a cost-optimizer.

Having addressed all these drawbacks of C-RAN, vRAN (Virtualized RAN), the new architecture, is receiving strong interest within the industry. It further enhances the flexibility by virtualizing the functions of basebands in a common resource pool made up of the COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf) servers, allocating resources in a flexible manner according to traffic conditions. There is resource pooling gain with vRAN.

  • Resource Pooling gain comes from the programmable S/W control of total cell capacity allocation that can be dynamically changed per traffic conditions: for instance, when more traffic comes from some cell sites measured as the active number of UEs, then the UE allocation capacity for such cells can be dynamically increased. Likewise, when less traffic comes from some cell sites, the UE allocation capacity for such cells can be dynamically decreased.

On the other hand, O-RAN (Open RAN) can also provide cost efficiency and serve as one of the cost optimizers.

  • O-RAN function split is another opportunity to reduce the transport cost by off-loading some centralized Baseband L1 functions to the radio side. Option 7-2x is one of the standardized options by O-RAN and they are discussing other options such as Option 6.
  • O-RAN Function Split helps to reduce transport cost significantly.

Part 2 looks at reducing OPEX to make TCO lower. Four technology pillars are discussed in the blog post as can be seen from the picture above: automation, virtualization, cloudification and network slicing. Success in these four pillars, will accelerate the 5G evolution.

I am not providing the details here, best to check the Samsung blog post.

It is worth mentioning that every region, country and operator is different. While at the high level this makes complete sense, other operators may face completely different challenges. The main challenge all operators face is how to make more money as they have to continuously keep pumping money in network upgrades and new services. Nobody has an answer to the killer application and the killer use case.

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