LIVE FROM MWC LAS VEGAS 2023: Verizon executive Joe Russo outlined the operator’s multi-year network transformation including a complete overhaul of its 5G core, on the sidelines of the conference.

Russo, who is the company’s president of global networks and technology, stated its transformation journey started with deploying more fibre, virtualisation and an internally-developed Verizon Cloud Platform. The latter is based on webscale software architecture and IP-based technologies designed for mobile operator workloads.

“All our 5G core applications are now running on our cloud-native platform,” said Russo. “We’ve moved to a containerised environment as well recently with the 5G core.”

The benefit of a Kubernetes-based, cloud-native platform includes disaggregating software and hardware in the core to support the dynamic allocation of network resources.

“Now in the core, we’re really seeing the ability to automate resilience,” Russo explained. “That’s the first thing, which is just making sure that the applications can self-heal and that the applications can stand themselves up if we see a fault in the platform.”

The 5G core upgrades also enable Verizon to do faster software releases without impacting services used by consumers and businesses.

“There’s a ton of automation we’ve built into our testing right through deployment and optimisation of the platform,” Russo noted.

Verizon also built-in transport and application resiliency by using virtualised platforms.

The operator has reduced infrastructure costs, which Russo stated allowed it to invest in other areas such as coverage and capacity.

Core competencies
A further benefit is the skills and capabilities Verizon has built up through re-tooling its 5G core, which can be applied to enterprise customers.

“My team understands how to stand up a virtualised core, and then all the way out to a virtualised RAN solution, all of which is what we’re doing in the private networking space,” Russo said.

Verizon now has vRAN on 15,000 cell sites, up from 8,000 in September of 2022, primarily through Samsung, but Russo noted the operator has started to deploy Ericsson’s vRAN.

Russo said Verizon is working to deploy standalone (SA) 5G after conducting various trials but he stated the operator’s open RAN efforts were “slow but developing”.

“I’ve been pushing the team to make sure that as we deploy standalone, it’s a step function improvement for our customers,” he said. “What we’ve seen in our testing is there are some things we have to work out to make sure that our customers are getting the reliability and accessibility that they expect not only for their data sessions, but also their voice sessions.”