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Samsung vRAN and Massive MIMO: Redefining the Boundaries

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Samsung vRAN and Massive MIMO: Redefining the Boundaries

The world's insatiable appetite to stream music and movies, and share their lives on social networks shows no sign of abating, with total global mobile data traffic expected to more than triple from 2021 to 2026.

  • DoHyun Park

    Principle Engineer of Advanced R&D, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics


The world's insatiable appetite to stream music and movies, and share their lives on social networks shows no sign of abating, with total global mobile data traffic expected to more than triple from 2021 to 20261. Moreover, as new immersive applications such as remote control of industrial robots and VR/AR simulations emerge with 5G’s availability, mobile operators want to swiftly start delivering on these new services. Thus, it is crucial to check in on 5G networks’ ability to easily handle massive data traffic and promptly offer new services. In this blog, we would like to cover how Samsung meets these challenges with its Massive MIMO radios and virtualized RAN (vRAN) solution. Also, we would like to go over our latest milestone that could redefine the boundaries of 5G technologies.    

Massive MIMO radios to resolve data traffics 

The Radio Access Network (RAN) is a primary element of wireless networks. RAN solutions, which include radios and baseband units, provide connectivity between mobile devices and a network. Among these RAN solutions, radio is characterized by the number of transmit (T) and receive (R) elements of antennas and the frequency bands. For example, 2T2R means the antenna has two transmit elements and two receive elements and can carry roughly twice the data of 1T1R. When radio networks were first setup, 1T1R was the norm, but as technology evolved, more transmit and receive elements were added for more performance and capacity. When special techniques were implemented to such configurations, it became known as Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO), and especially, antennas with more than 16 transmit and receive elements are generally called Massive MIMO. As 5G networks on mid-band spectrum are more widely deployed, 32T32R and 64T64R Massive MIMO radios are commonly used in market these days to handle astonishing data traffic.

vRAN to redefine networks  

A baseband unit acts as a “hub” of radios, and controls upload and download data traffics. The baseband unit is used to be delivered in a form of proprietary hardware. Now, the solution can be presented differently. We call this the virtualization of RAN, or virtualized RAN (vRAN). It allows a baseband unit to be offered as  software, operating on a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) server, just like an application on a smartphone. By deploying vRAN, mobile operators can enjoy numerous advances. 

With vRAN, mobile operators are able to flexibly allocate network resources based on traffic conditions, managing networks more effectively. Moreover, based on a cloud-native, container-based architecture, the vRAN brings automated operation one step closer, making the entire network life cycle much easier from creation, operation, monitoring, to optimization.

Finally, vRAN can split baseband unit functions into what are known as a virtualized centralized unit (vCU) and virtualized distributed unit (vDU). Each of these functions can be placed in different locations, based on mobile operators’ needs. By placing the vCU and vDU separately, mobile operators are able to diversify their network characteristics to serve various data speeds, latency, and quality requirements for a new service. 

So far, each different solution has delivered value to mobile operators. Combining these two powerful solutions will create even greater synergies for mobile operators. However, it is not an easy task to complete.
Here’s why:

Combining vRAN and Massive MIMO radios

So as you can see, vRAN and MIMO are the two big new technologies that have been in the vogue as we enter 5G. As we enter the 5G era, leading vendors, such as Samsung, have successfully deployed 5G on mid-band spectrum widely, using traditional baseband units with hardware-based and dedicated components to bring the full potential of 5G to customers. While vRAN – the other exciting new technology – had many advantages, many people in the industry were asking whether it could provide the same level of performance as a vendor’s hardware-based solution in a short time, especially for the performance intensive technologies such as MIMO. We overcame several challenges to counter this perception and proved vRAN’s ability to support 5G with a quality on par with purpose-built hardware.

 As we began our vRAN development, we faced the challenge of implementing baseband functions as software, which used to be a hardware component. However, we successfully integrated our vRAN with low-band radios and commercialized it in 2020.

 Other challenges we faced were when we expanded our vRAN capability to support Massive MIMO radios; bandwidth increased from 10MHz to 100MHz; the layer rose from 2 to 16; and Time Division Duplexing(TDD) needed to be implemented. These factors added more pressure, meaning that vRAN must optimize the highly increased processing power. Many doubted vRAN could handle such a significant processing load, but Samsung was determined to prove the technology’s power. 

Samsung achieves another vRAN milestone

Today, Samsung made a significant announcement in the advancement of 5G RAN virtualization. We successfully interoperated our industry-leading vRAN with the latest 64T64R Massive MIMO radio, demonstrating top 5G vRAN speed exceeding 1.5Gbps on C-Band spectrum. This delivers further proof that Samsung’s vRAN solution has the capability to handle massive data traffic, and we are taking this powerful combination out to the field and conducting trials.

As a long-standing global leader in the 5G arena, Samsung is working with operators to deploy robust networks offering valuableservices. In 2020, for instance, Samsung unveiled its fully virtualized 5G vRAN and, earlier this year, we announced the successful commercialization of its 5G vRAN with a Tier 1 U.S. operator.

In addition, building off the company’s long-standing leadership in Massive MIMO technology and deep experience in mid-band deployments, the company launched a new 64T64R C-Band Massive MIMO radio this year. This uses 3D beamforming, which supports the entire 280 MHz found in the recently-opened frequency band and features a radio that triples bandwidth capacity, and doubles the output power compared to prior models. By combining Samsung’s vRAN with its 64T64R Massive MIMO radio, Samsung is excited to continue leading the industry on the road to 5G, enabling operators to offer an array of next-generation networks, as they future-proof their networks.

To learn more, visit us at Samsung Networks. Samsung’s continuing innovations will be presented at the upcoming event: “Samsung Networks: Redefined”.