It seems as though it was just yesterday when Verizon announced it had deployed more than 8,000 virtualized radio access network (vRAN) cell sites.

It’s actually been about 87 days, but who’s counting?  

Verizon now says it has deployed more than 10,000 vRAN cell sites across the U.S., marking significant progress toward its goal of rolling out 20,000 of these sites by 2025.

Much of this work has been done thanks to Samsung, but Verizon today also announced that it has added the first Ericsson virtualized cell site, also referred to as Ericsson Cloud RAN. The Ericsson announcement acknowledged support from Intel and RedHat for processing and cloud-native orchestration functions.

Back in September, Verizon declared itself the leader in vRAN innovation, despite rival AT&T for years talking about its ambitious plans to virtualize the majority of its network. Verizon SVP Adam Koeppe told Fierce at that time that he believes Verizon’s deployment is the largest in telecom when factoring in the core, edge and “far edge” of the network.

Samsung’s work

Samsung said it’s the lead network solutions provider here, helping Verizon grow from 8,000 vRAN sites announced in September to those 10,000 sites today. According to Samsung, these sites provide Verizon with a network that easily scales, allows for rapid upgrades and can be managed with centralized resources.

Samsung used the occasion to point out that it provided vRAN and 5G Massive MIMO C-band radios when Verizon launched its first 5G C-band commercial service in January. Earlier this week, Verizon also announced that its C-band network now covers more than 175 million people nationwide, a goal that it has been talking about pretty much all year.

Samsung says its vRAN is open Radio Access Network (RAN) compliant, able to run 2G, 4G and 5G networks and is capable of operating 4G and 5G simultaneously. Virtualized RAN is also better for the environment, allowing for reduced power consumption by turning down or off the energy needed on antennas, amplifiers and cell sites.

Samsung didn’t say which other Tier 1 operators it’s working with in the U.S., but claims it is the only major telecom vendor with “real-world, wide-scale commercial 5G vRAN deployments” with Tier 1 operators in North America, Europe and Asia. With a nod to growing its footprint, Samsung noted recent new wins in Germany and Japan.

Ericsson joins the fray  

For Ericsson’s first virtualized cell site for Verizon, the Swedish vendor provided its commercial 5G Cloud RAN solution, consisting of a virtualized Central Unit (vCU), a virtualized Distributed Unit (vDU) and radio units. This first site is in Minneapolis, according to an Ericsson spokesperson. 

Similar to Samsung’s support for multiple spectrum bands, Ericsson’s software-based 5G Cloud RAN solution spans across all of Verizon’s frequency bands, using both FDD and TDD 5G spectrum assets. Ericsson also supports Massive MIMO for C-band and interconnecting previously deployed equipment to enable Ericsson Spectrum Sharing between LTE and 5G carriers.

Verizon explained that virtualizing the far edge of the RAN – the cell sites closest to the customer – is a function of decoupling the hardware and software associated with a cell tower and transitioning the software so that it’s not just stored in the cloud, but is designed for a cloud-native architecture and operation. All of this leads to more efficiencies in the network and faster delivery of new services.

Verizon and Ericsson also published a position paper this week outlining the ideal technology path for vRAN in order to maximize the performance and efficiency of the network.

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