Combo of 5G and GPUs at the edge as enabler of consumer and enterprise XR use cases
Verizon is steadily activating mobile 5G using its millimeter wave spectrum with the goal of hitting 30 markets by the end of the year, and recently restarted its 5G Home fixed wireless service with a New Radio-based launch in Chicago. As its 5G footprint continues to grow, Verizon is looking to dynamic spectrum sharing, investments at the network edge and a transition in 2020 to standalone mode as technologies that can open up new service-based revenue opportunities.
In an interview with RCR Wireless News during Mobile World Congress Los Angeles, Verizon’s Nicki Palmer, senior vice president and chief network officer, discussed ongoing and future 5G plans and reiterated her focus on delivering a differentiated user experience.
Ahead of MWC last week, Verizon announced it had internally developed a “GPU-based orchestration system” that could “enable the development of scalable GPU cloud-based services.” In a statement, the operator said its team “developed a prototype using GPU slicing and management of virtualization that supports any GPU-based service and will increase the ability for multiple user-loads and tenants.” Tests focused on computer vision and a gaming service; in both cases, the new tech significantly increased the number of the concurrent users.
Palmer noted, in conjunction with the GPU conversation, that Verizon in September acquired software, tech and other assets from XR specialist Jaunt, which was described as focusing “on the scalable creation and distribution of volumetric video of humans.”
“What we do with it, how we go to market…we haven’t detailed that,” she said. “This is just the beginning of a narrative.” When talking about 5G, you can’t just talk about radios, Palmer said. “You have to talk about what you’re going to do with it–help create the future.”
Cloud gaming, a partial focus of Verizon’s GPU work and a use case that has gotten a lot of attention from both device OEMs and their chipset vendors, but also from carriers in mature mobile markets like South Korea, could be in the works at Verizon.
“We haven’t detailed any plans here,” Palmer said, “but it’s easy to envision a mobile gaming service that has a slice of the network…that people would consume that has a certain latency profile and a certain bandwidth profile.”
Open RAN, a movement for vendor interoperability and the subject of specification work led by the O-RAN Alliance, was a big topic at MWC. The general idea is carriers can pick best in breed equipment built on general purpose hardware platforms rather than single-purpose, proprietary equipment. This would lower costs–key to scaling 5G, and fostering innovation and competition in a vendor ecosystem dominated by Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE.
Verizon is working with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung for its 5G RAN, among other network elements. Asked if open RAN would make her life easier or more difficult, Palmer said, “It’s both. Our ideal, like our North Star, is that we’re able to pick best-of-breed componentry and stitch it together. Best-of-breed gives us the performance characteristic we want [and]the cost we want.”
On the other hand, open RAN “does require a level of interop, a level of integration. But I think, you know, we’re a while away from fully realizing the vision that I just laid out but we’ve been chipping away at it and working towards it.”
Palmer also pointed out that Verizon continues to invest in its LTE network which “will continue to be outstanding and eventually evolves into what later becomes a 5G experience.” In terms of how LTE and 5G are related, “When you have a sufficient number of devices on 5G…that’s load that’s not on your 4G network, so your 4G network improves.”
Right now Verizon’s 5G offering is non-standalone meaning it’s an LTE core with the addition of 5G component carrier on the radio side. Standalone 5G, the next step, would have a dedicated core and RAN and be capable of network slicing wherein a specific amount of network and spectral resources are allocated to specific customers or services.
Palmer said Verizon would transition to standalone 5G in 2020. “This is where it’s going we know it’s going there, we want it as soon as possible. We have interest in it being there because it almost more agility in the network.”