C-band deployment is inching closer, and Verizon is staying prepared with investment and testing. The wireless carrier is reporting encouraging results from a trial using Samsung vRAN gear on the C-band spectrum. According to Samsung, the 5G data sessions, which took place on Verizon’s live network in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Texas, were the first trials to do so. Verizon was granted permission to conduct the fully virtualized 5G data session under special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC.
The trials consisted of Samsung’s vRAN platform along with its software stack. Used with C-band 64T64R Massive MIMO radios and Verizon’s virtualized core, the trials were able to reach encouraging speeds. Samsung also introduced its C-band Massive MIMO radio, capable of supporting operation with its virtualized BBU (baseband unit). As soon as the first 100 MHz of C-band is cleared and available, Samsung is planning to make the solution live on commercial networks across the United States. The plan is for Verizon to overlay its 4G LTE grid already in use with C-band. The focus will be on 46 initial markets, with rural markets, small cells, and indoor coverage added down the line. Deployment should reach 7,000 to 8,000 new sites for C-band before 2022.
Verizon’s commitment to virtualization is still in its beginning stages. Some within the wireless industry have their doubts, but many are realizing the importance and inevitability of virtualization. Ericsson recently gained its largest contract ever for over $8 billion to work with Verizon to develop and deploy C-band gear.
Its partnership with Ericsson and Samsung as vendors continues to push Verizon’s network forward. Verizon is using Samsung’s vRAN platform with a virtualized distributed unit (vDU) in its commercial 5G network. The deployment was the first vRAN deployment on such a large scale for Samsung. So far, the trials were capable of achieving the same speeds as traditional networks using hardware. Despite the encouraging measurements, Bill Stone, the Vice President of Technology Development and Planning for Verizon, is looking less at speed and more at programmability.
“While we were glad to see speeds on par with traditional hardware-based equipment, this trial is really about our efforts to optimize overall performance using advanced technology for our customers as we roll out our 5G on C-band. The most impactful benefit of virtualization is the programmability virtualization offers to ensure we are able to provide the resources 5G use cases need. We were able to demonstrate that level of programmability in this trial,” said Stone.
After winning 180 MHz of C-band spectrum during an FCC auction earlier in 2021, it’s clear to see the importance Verizon is placing on optimizing the band. The expectation is around 60 MHz of the C-band spectrum that will be cleared and available for use by the end of 2021, which will cover 46 Partial Economic Areas (PEAs). During the Q1 of 2022, Verizon is planning on providing 5G coverage for 100 million people using the C-band spectrum. Those numbers grow substantially over the following few years with plans to cover over 175 million people by the end of 2023 and 250 million after 2024.
Making the C-band spectrum available will be instrumental in delivering 5G connectivity to Americans. The spectrum falls under the mid-band spectrum category, which is beloved by the wireless industry for its ability to provide better coverage than high-band (mmWave) and more speed and data capacity than low-band spectrum. Connections will occur in the 3.7-3.98 GHz range.
Stone is confident that Verizon’s C-band strategy continues to unfold as planned, writing, “We are on track to execute on the C-band plan we rolled out in March. The spectrum clearing is going at pace, our teams are working in the field to complete the tower work that is needed, and our trial optimizing antenna work, virtualization, aggregation, and more continue successfully in earnest.”
Virtualization is helping Verizon and other 5G carriers develop solutions in less time and at a lower cost. It also allows Verizon additional flexibility as a network and a better way to conduct maintenance over time. Lower latency is another benefit 5G is delivering, which will unlock a variety of applications and solutions that can be used in real-time. By virtualizing its 5G network, Verizon will be able to provide a network and cloud infrastructure that is closer to its customers, which are important aspects of lowering latency and mobile edge computing.
Samsung is proving to be up for the task with its vRAN working well with its C-band Massive MIMO radio. The radios can support dynamic beamforming, single-user MIMO (SU-MIMO) and multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO), carrier aggregation, and dual connectivity. They are also capable of supporting all 280 MHz of the C-band spectrum auctioned by the FCC. By using Massive MIMO antenna arrays, Verizon gains more paths on which to transmit signals between its tower and a user. Beamforming provides a focused, precise signal to users which means less disruption and faster speeds.
“Incorporating full, cloud-native virtualization, Massive MIMO, and beamforming into our network design and deployment will result in so much more than our customers merely seeing a 5G icon on their devices. This is 5G service optimized for peak performance,” said Adam Koeppe who serves as Senior Vice President of Technology Planning at Verizon.
Source: Fierce Wireless