By Petr Jurcik (Deutsche Telekom), Anil Umesh (NTT DOCOMO), Santram Vashist (Bharti Airtel) and Tracy van Brakle (AT&T).
In summer 2020, the O-RAN ALLIANCE successfully conducted its second worldwide plugfest and proof of concept to demonstrate the functionality as well as the multi-vendor interoperability of O-RAN based network equipment.
At four venues across the globe, in total 55 companies came together to deal with the functional, interoperability and performance challenges of the O-RAN ecosystem. Test scenarios have successfully passed, proving the readiness of O-RAN implementations for commercial rollout.
The second O-RAN ALLIANCE plugfest took place at two Asian venues, East Asia and India.
The O-RAN plugfest/PoC in East Asia was conducted in various operator and vendor labs in Japan and China. Activities in Japan were hosted by NTT DOCOMO, KDDI and SoftBank Corp., and activities in China were hosted in China OTIC labs. 16 companies participated. One set of scenarios focused on multi-vendor interoperability using O-RAN’s open interfaces, while others also involved RAN virtualization and RAN Intelligent Controllers (RIC).
The test scenarios comprised:
Hosted by Bharti Airtel, the India Plugfest was held at Gurgaon and Bengaluru locations. Demonstrations from 10 companies were put together to showcase O-RAN-compliant Open Fronthaul multi-vendor interworking, O-DU system validation, O-RAN-compliant open X2 interface, and Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC) use cases compliant with O-RAN O1 and E2 interfaces for network performance optimization, combining machine learning and radio intelligence:
Deutsche Telekom, TIM, Telefónica, Orange, and BT have teamed up together with the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) to host the first Joint O-RAN & TIP plugfest. O-RAN and TIP jointly worked on the definition of test cases and test scenarios, enabling future cooperation and synergy between the Open Testing and Integration Centre (OTIC) and TIP community lab. The plugfest focused primarily on Open Fronthaul interface, associated transport options, and multi-vendor interoperability.
For the first time, network operators across Europe and across the O-RAN ALLIANCE and TIP communities tested the O-RAN solutions together, and shared between them the detailed results, experiences, and lessons learned. The joint, open, and coordinated effort greatly accelerates the technical evaluation of O-RAN solutions, helps to assess and progress the state of the industry, and effectively avoids duplication of efforts for all involved parties whether network operators or solution providers.
As part of the event, products and solutions from 27 manufacturers were used in three operator labs, namely Berlin hosted by Deutsche Telekom, Torino hosted by TIM, and Madrid hosted by Telefónica. O-RAN Radio Units (O-RU), Distributed, and Central Units (O-DU/O-CU) were installed, integrated and tested on-site at these labs. More than 80 engineers from participating solution providers collaboratively supported the integration and testing, most of them remotely due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Test and measurement equipment was provided by Calnex, EXFO, Keysight Technologies, ng4T, Rohde & Schwarz, and VIAVI Solutions.
The O-RU and O-DU/O-CU devices for end-to-end system integration and testing were provided by Altran, Astri, Baicells, Foxconn, JMA Wireless, Mavenir, MTI mobile, QCT, Radisys, Wind River, and WNC.
The O-RU devices for sub-system integration and testing with an O-DU emulator were provided by Benetel, CommScope, Delta, Fujitsu, and Xilinx.
The O-DU devices for sub-system integration and testing with an O-RU emulator were provided by Radisys and Wiwynn.
The transport solutions supporting O-RAN infrastructure were provided by Ciena, Cisco and Juniper Networks.
The integration and testing efforts were coordinated by EANTC as the systems integrator, and supported by engineers from the hosting operators and from highstreet technologies, as lab integrators.
As an outcome of the European Joint O-RAN & TIP plugfest:
The tested products from the European branch of the plugfest will also be listed in TIP exchange, as a reference to the community for the solution tested.
The joint O-RAN & O-RAN Software Community (OSC) Plugfest/PoC hosted by AT&T and Verizon took place within the indoor/outdoor city-scale “living labs” established by the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) initiative:
O-RAN members contributing to the design, development, deployment, and initial operations of these community labs over the past 12+ months include AirSpan, Altiostar, AT&T, Cisco, CommScope, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Juniper, NEC, Nokia, Samsung, Verizon, and Viavi (a partial list). The investment of time and effort made it possible for the North American Plugfest/PoC to proceed regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic, as participants were able to establish secure connections from their private lab spaces to COSMOS or POWDER and then execute test cases or conduct experiments remotely, safely, and cost-effectively with the support of the community.
The primary focus this year, building upon the results obtained during the first O-RAN Plugfest/PoC in 2019, was to demonstrate the evolution of key O-RAN specifications in conjunction with the enhancements and new capabilities being delivered by Release 2 “Bronze” from the O-RAN Software Community. Note that the specifications and the software are being worked in parallel, and the software is considered pre-specification:
The next steps within the North American region will include increased coordination and collaboration with other regions across the globe as part of the upcoming O-RAN/OSC Release 3 “Cherry” Proof of Concept scheduled to take place in 1Q 2021.