TIA 2011: Intelís cloud expands to cover the wireless network
Intel is working with China Mobile and an unnamed Chinese vendor to develop a cloud-RAN platform that will divorce the base station from the cell site
DALLAS Ė Intel (NYSE:INTC) is moving its cloud computing platform into the wireless network. At TIA 2011, Rose Schooler, general manager of Intelís Communications Infrastructure Division, said the chip maker is working with Chinese wireless vendor and the worldís largest mobile operator China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) to design a cloud-radio access network (RAN) architecture.
Cloud RAN would sever the base station from the cell site completely, leaving only a remote radio head and antenna at the tower or transmission site. The RF signal is then backhauled to a secure data center where it meets not a dedicated base station but a pool of baseband resources that can be allocated to any number of cells, depending on where the most demand lies.
Schooler didnít name the specific vendor, but of the two major radio network infrastructure providers, only ZTE has announced a cloud-RAN strategy. Chinaís biggest vendor Huawei has been more dismissive of Cloud-RAN, calling these new distributed baseband architectures mere concepts rather than commercially viable products (CP: Huawei builds small cells the old-fashioned way). But Huawei does work with closely with Intel for its SingleCloud data center architecture.
China Mobile has been the most aggressive operator in pursuing Cloud-RAN, which has attracted little attention from North American operators. China Mobile operates on a scale that few global operators can even comprehend, maintaining a GSM network of 700,000 base stations throughout China. By moving to Cloud-RAN architecture, China Mobile can minimize its capital investment at the cell site, as well as build baseband capacity to meet the networkís overall capacity needs rather than dedicate baseband resources to each radio.
Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) and Nokia Siemens Networks (NYSE:NOK, NYSE:SI) have also developed their own cloud-RAN technologies incorporating them into their new small-cell next-generation architectures (CP: Alcatel-Lucentís new building-building block architecture does away with the base station) (CP: Nokia Siemens pours out Liquid Radio). ALU and NSN are also each working closely with a silicon vendor to supply scalable system-on-a-chip architectures off of which they can build their cloud-RAN platforms. In ALUís case itís Freescale, while NSN is using long-time partner Texas Instrumentsí (NYSE:TXN) designs.
Intel, however, seems to be promising a different strategy to its carrier and vendor customers. Rather than scaling traditional telecom technology down to the chipset, itís proposing bringing a computing architecture to telecom. In her keynote address, Schooler said that the telecom industry has been hobbled by proprietary interfaces and a multitude of boxes and signaling protocols. Taking a page out of the computing industryís book, operators should adopt common platforms with standards-based interfaces, which would ultimately save development and deployment costs and allow the industry to innovate at the much faster pace of computing , Schooler said.
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