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The FlexRAN platform provides a virtualized reference implementation of LTE Advanced RAN (Radio Access Network) with a modular eNB (eNode-B) reference software stack that operates on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware in combination with FPGA hardware accelerators that support specific network functions. The specific FlexRAN Platform being installed in the 5TONIC open 5G Lab runs on Artesyn's MaxCore(tm) HA platform, a high availability version of its microserver platform for NFV/SDN and carrier cloud networks. In the following weeks, Telefónica and other 5TONIC partners will test and validate the viability of virtualized implementations of current and future RANs for both functionality and performance.

The support of a Virtualized RAN is considered a requisite for the evolution of 5G which must support different connectivity and performance requirements associated with varying use cases. The flexibility and scalability of the FlexRAN will allow for reuse of the same infrastructure components to be deployed and support these next generation networks. FlexRAN will be the primary vehicle to engage in technical and business discussions with xRAN.org, a new forum intended to promote a software-based, extensible radio access network (xRAN) and to standardize critical elements of the xRAN architecture. FlexRAN is Intel's common reference software platform being utilized across 5G RAN engagements and multiple initiatives.

In the coming months, Telefonica and 5TONIC partners have plans to evolve the FlexRAN to incorporate new functionalities that may allow for new trials and speed the path to 5G including:

  • Incorporation of over-the-air capabilities in the platform and integration with 5TONIC virtual EPC to create an end-to-end virtual mobile network.
  • Integration of the FlexRAN platform with ETSI's OSM MANO, which may allow for a simplified install and upgrade process, as well as EPA based resource allocation.
  • Evolution of FlexRAN to support 5G NR radio interface main technological components such as the new coding schemes (LPDC codes) and waveforms foreseen.
  • Potential integration of FleXRAN in the trials of other use cases.

David del Val, CEO of Telefónica I+D and 5TONIC chairman, said: "We are excited to incorporate the FlexRAN platform into the infrastructure that is available for trials in 5TONIC. With our partners Intel, Artesyn, and other 5TONIC members, we plan to carry out extensive testing to ensure that a virtualized Radio Access Network provides the functionality and performance required to support 5G use cases."