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Future-proofing the next generation network

The term 5G continues to headline as a game-changer in Africa.

According to International Data Corporation, while most service providers on the continent continue to try to extract as much value from their 4G investments as possible, 5G will be the next driver of mobile broadband growth.

Jan Liebenberg, Customer Chief Technology Officer for Southern Africa at Nokia, says telcos must get ready for the future of Radio Access Networks (RAN) to be prepared to take advantage of a surge in demand for new services and more services.

“Our customers will be looking at higher capacity and connectivity, scalability and future-proofness along with wider radio spectrum support, more intelligence with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), shared infrastructure and lower energy consumption,” says Liebenberg.

“In preparation for the expected surge in 5G mobile broadband traffic growth around the world, Nokia has set another industry benchmark with the launch of our next-generation, industry-leading AirScale base station product portfolio.”

The portfolio includes new radio units, massive MIMO active antennas with 3D digital beamforming and baseband units, setting industry benchmarks for 5G and Single RAN radio access network (RAN) performance, capacity, connectivity, and efficiency, building on our next generation ReefShark SoC’s (System-on-Chip) and the modular and scalable architecture of AirScale base stations.

“This new AirScale product suite positions Nokia at the forefront of the industry. Our ReefShark SoC technology, developed with Nokia’s intellectual property blocks in partnership with leading SoC houses with their particular technology assets is both the brain and heart of our radio and baseband products,” says Liebenberg.

Nokia’s ReefShark chipsets will also play a critical role in future Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) capabilities.

“Nokia’s SoCs, radio platforms, and baseband platforms have been prepared for AI and ML. There are numerous exciting and promising use cases for AI/ML in RAN, such as Massive MIMO beam pattern optimisation, energy-saving, advanced traffic steering, advanced packet scheduling, and anomaly pattern discovery – and many more. Researchers at Nokia Bell Labs and leading universities around the world have confirmed the great potential in improving network performances with AI/ML,” he says.

“With the newly launched AirScale base station solutions, our customers will be able to offer premium 5G capacity and coverage, with wider radio spectrum support and lower energy consumption,” says Liebenberg.

“This new generation of our AirScale portfolio marks a major milestone securing Nokia’s full portfolio competitiveness and technology leadership in RAN.”

Customers will benefit from the new 64TRX and 32TRX AirScale Massive MIMO active antennas with 3D digital beamforming, as well as new remote radio head (8T8R) units.

At only 17kg, the 32TRX massive MIMO antenna is the industry’s lightest product in its category, simplifying and speeding up site deployments, which is crucial in dense urban areas.

However, its light design does not compromise on capacity and performance, as this product also supports the industry-widest radio frequency bandwidth, up to 400 MHz, and high output power of 320W.

“The extended radio bandwidth is particularly interesting to operators with very wide or fragmented spectrum holdings, as well as operators combining their spectrum assets to share a network. And yes, the radio platforms and SoCs inside are O-RAN ready,” he says.

New AirScale baseband plug-in units deliver up to three times more throughput and serve up to eight times more cells compared to previous generations.

The Nokia AirScale system module with the new plug-in units can support 90,000 simultaneously connected users and 84 Gbps of throughput across 288 cells.

The new baseband units support Nokia’s full-fledged Single RAN system software which includes all radio access technologies (RAT) from 2G to 5G, opening a whole new level of efficiencies with common transport, operability, common hardware, and software delivery.

The new baseband products are also O-RAN ready, just like Nokia’s existing vRAN (Virtualized RAN) solution with vCU (virtualized Centralized Unit) and vDU (virtualized Distributed Unit).

“Powered by the latest Nokia ReefShark System on Chip (SoC) technology, the new radio and baseband products offer not only higher capacity and connectivity and extended bandwidth, but also significantly improved energy efficiency, reducing the baseband power consumption by up to 75 percent and ultimately minimising total cost of ownership (TCO),” Liebenberg concludes.

For more information about the launch, view the following video:

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Future-proofing the next generation network