Cisco and Intel vRAN with MEC Proof of Concept

The mobile wireless industry is undergoing tremendous transformation with 5G. This enables companies to not only create new content, but also devise innovative means of delivering that content. Some of these new realities require changing the way we envision the network architecture – from centralized to disaggregated and from fixed function to open systems. Cisco and Intel have been working together to build better solutions across many business verticals. Most recently, Cisco and Intel collaborated to enable latency-sensitive services while improving quality of experiences at lower costs This has resulted in a successful proof of concept demonstrating virtualized radio access network (vRAN) with mobile edge computing (MEC) running on the same server supporting a latency-sensitive application (augmented reality).

Why are we doing this?

The radio access network (RAN) is a necessary, but expensive segment of the operator network. Today’s RAN tend to be proprietary, closed systems. Introducing a virtualized, open radio access network provides new flexibility, and scalability, while reducing the total cost of ownership (estimated at 20% – 30% by the vRAN industry).

Cisco VNI projects mobile video will make up 78% of mobile data traffic by 2021. Localizing video caching can improve the quality of experience (QoE) while reducing costs. In addition, mobile edge computing (MEC) can support new 5G services that require low latency. These new services can include:

  • Augment reality/virtual reality
  • IoT
  • Public-safety
  • Industry-critical services (robotics)
  • Mission-critical (healthcare)

What did we do?

We got “Edgy” in a 5G way. This is a multi-vendor proof of concept pairing a 4G/5G disaggregated open radio solution with a distributed virtualized packet core ready for 5G services. We used Intel’s FlexRAN reference architecture software. FlexRAN is capable of front-hauling between remote radio heads and the virtualized base station (eNodeB and gNodeB) over fiber (CPRI) and Gigabit Ethernet. Cisco’s Ultra Services Platform is used for the edge computing. This cloud-native solution leverages the SDN function of control/user plane separation (CUPS), we position the packet core user plane and services functions with the VRAN. The packet core control plane and policy functions are hosted in a cloud. There are unique advantages of using the disaggregated-virtualized packet core for edge computing. Tight integration of the packet core control plane and the edge compute/caching functions provides policy, mobile anchoring, charging, lawful intercept and authentication capabilities to services running at the edge. Intel’s consistent advancements in processor technology enables Intel’s FlexRAN and Cisco Ultra Services Platform to share a single Cisco UCS server – offering enhanced efficiency.

Ultra Services Platform is the industry leading fully-virtualized, distributed packet core services platform, Cisco Ultra has over 35 fully commercial deployments carrying over 150 million subscribers. This is a subset of the over 1 billion subscribers on all Cisco packet core solutions.

What are the benefits to the mobile operator?

VRAN and smarter edge computing can:

  • Reduce RAN expenses
  • Flexible radio platform
  • Enter new market opportunities
  • Latency-sensitive apps
  • Pay-as-you-grow model
  • Reduced network traffic
  • Improves customer satisfaction

We invite you to see the video of this proof of concept demonstration for yourself at Mobile World Congress-Americas in San Francisco, September 12-14th. Simply ask you Cisco account team to schedule a meeting with the 5G experts at the event.


Dan Kurschner

Marketing Manager, Product/Systems