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Thursday
Aug222019

ECI Telecom details its cell-site gateway for 5G

ECI Telecom has unveiled its cell-site router for 5G that also supports existing 3G and 4G wireless standards. 

“You need to support the existing one or two generations of cellular networks,” says Jimmy Mizrahi, ECI’s executive vice president and head of global portfolio.

Jimmy MizrahiThe platform, the NPT 1022 cell-site router, is the first of several platforms that ECI will launch for 5G as it upgrades and expands its Neptune product line.

“The 1022 is part of a new line of products covering all layers of the network, starting at the cell site and going to aggregation and the metro core,” says Ezra Yehezkel, product line manager, packet transport solutions at ECI.

The Neptune portfolio will include a high-capacity packet-processing platform that can scale to 16 terabits. 

 

Mobile backhaul player 

ECI has been addressing the mobile backhaul market since the advent of GSM.

“We are now deploying 4G around the world, while in India we are one of the biggest vendors, if not the leading one, in mobile backhaul,” says Mizrahi. 

ECI’s Indian operator customers include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular; the latter two now Vodafone Idea after a merger.

The systems vendor started developing its 5G portfolio two years ago and is now engaged with more than 20 communications service providers around the world. “Some of them are the largest in the market,” says Mizrahi.

He segments the 5G market operator opportunity into three. The first category is the early adopters that have started or are planning to deploy 5G. “We have a proof-of-concept [deployment] with one of the largest service providers in the world and in the next few months they will start to deploy 5G,” says Mizrahi.

The second category is those operators that are issuing tenders for 4G but want to be ready for 5G, says Mizrahi: “They don’t want to continue investing in their existing networks knowing that in the next several years they will have to invest in 5G.”

The final class is the late-adopters; operators that are waiting to see how 5G develops.

 

Source: ECI Telecom

 

NPT 1022

The NPT 1022 is deployed at a cell site and is designed to operate in harsh environments. The platform is one-rack-unit (1RU) high and uses Broadcom’s Qumran-UX Ethernet switch chip for an overall switching capacity of 64 gigabits.

“Our target with this platform is to do the optimisation when you need 10-gigabit uplinks; for 100 gigabits we have other platforms,” says Yehezkel.

The 1022 platform supports the stringent timing requirements needed for 5G, known as Class C and Class D synchronisation that have a timing accuracy of +/-10ns and +/-5ns, respectively.

Ezra YehezkelAnother key 5G feature is network slicing; the mechanism whereby the 5G network can be segmented to meet varied, and sometimes conflicting, service requirements.

Network slicing is used in other ways too. It can enable two operators to pool their investments to roll out a 5G network yet run the infrastructure as two networks. 

Network slicing will also allow an operator to run several generations of wireless on their network, adds Mizrahi.

There are two aspects to networking slicing: hard slicing that dedicates network resources to specific services, and soft slicing that prioritises and optimises the use of shared resources. 

“Hard slicing requires changes in the a platform’s backplane; you have to map specific lines in the backplane to support hard slicing,” says Mizrahi. It means supports the OIF’s Flexible Ethernet standard; that and hard slicing being part of the ITU-T’s Metro Transport Networks (ITU-T G.mtn) specification.

Soft slicing is described by Mizrahi as an enhancement to existing virtual private networking (VPN) technology.

ECI points out that hard slicing is not a feature needed for the 1022 given it resides near the network edge but it is a feature that will be included in the new cages that will make up its 5G portfolio. 

“We can do soft slicing with the option of hard slicing,” says Mizrahi. 

 

To my knowledge, no white box currently has the performance and functionality provided by the 1022

 

White Boxes

Two white-box designs for cell-site gateways already exist, one as part of the Open Compute Project - the AS7316-26XB that is backed by AT&T - and the Odyssey Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway (Odyssey-DCSG) developed under the auspices of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

“The reason we decided not to use a white box is that we wanted to optimise the configuration to what we believe customers need,” says Mizrahi.

Cell-site gateway platforms will be deployed in the hundreds and thousands of units by an operator, making them highly cost-sensitive. As a result, no one box will fit all the configurations while meeting the operators' target price.

“The question here is also not just about price but also functionality,” says Mizrahi. “To my knowledge, no white box currently has the performance and functionality provided by the 1022.”

 

Availability 

The 1022 is already shipping and is deployed in one network carrying live traffic. ECI expects the platform to be generally available in the coming month. 

“As soon as the software will be generally available we will start deployment in multiple networks around the world,” says Mizrahi.

 

Article amended on August 27 to stress that the 1022 does not support hard slicing  

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