IBM Research – China envisioned the Wireless Network Cloud (WNC) concept in 2008.
WNC is a disruptive technology and a system architecture for next-generation wireless access network. This system makes use of emerging cloud-computing technology and various technologies involved with wireless infrastructure, such as IT-based Software-Defined Radio (SDR) technology and remote radio head (RRH) technology. WNC is a global research project under the leadership of IBM Research – China. The collaboration with IRL and Watson teams has been built both academical and industrial partnership for this disruptive technology in China, India and other emerged markets.
Radio access network (RAN) is the key infrastructure in mobile communication network. Today’s wireless towers send data to mobile devices over Radio Access Networks (RAN). Each RAN base station can only connect with a limited number of antennas (which is the leading reason for dropped calls between stations). Ripping, replacing, or even just updating these base stations is costly; a single station can cost upwards of US$100,000. In addition, network voice call load – what the base stations were originally built to manage – is low and underutilized, while the network can’t meet the growing demand for services offered through mobile devices. Furthermore, base stations typically don’t communicate well with one another because they’re proprietary, and different generations of systems must meet different regulatory standards.
WNC changes this existing wireless communication infrastructure by integrating multi-core processors, high speed system interconnects, virtualization technology – and of course cloud computing. It provides consolidated support for today’s multi-standard and multi-system software radio communication on a cluster of general purpose servers. That means radio frequencies will be generated by software, rather than by today’s incompatible RAN base stations. Support will happen via software upgrades, even for different standards. This open platform does not only assist telecom operators to reduce their network construction costs, but also improve resource utilization. Sharing processing capabilities between virtualized base stations could further reduce interference between base stations, and improves network coverage.
Fig.1 Wireless Network Cloud architecture introduced in IBM R&D Journal
Research innovation under this vision includes:
- iBSP – IT-based Base Station supporting Platform, the system software framework to support high throughput low latency SDR BS workload on IT platform.
- pFAST – PCIe-based FPGA acceleration system to provide the I/O and processing acceleration with high throughput, low latency.
- Real-time Virtualization – The technology to ensure real-time performance in virtualized environment.
IBM Research’s collaboration with China Mobile Research Institue (CMRI) began with the Cloud-Radio Access Network (C-RAN) vision in 2010. As one of the major active members , IBM Research labs in China and India, with their partner China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI), intend to transform current wireless infrastructure of scattered and closed hardware platforms into a centralized, flexible and open platform with the Wireless Network Cloud (WNC).- the first combination of IT and wireless network infrastructure in this domain.
Fig.2 Dual-mode SDR BS prototype over IT platform in PT/Expo Comm China, Beijing, 2011
Fig.3 Triple-mode SDR BS prototype on IT platform in ITU Telecom World conference, Geneva, 2011