An ‘Everything in Containers’ LTE and 5G Demo

In the previous post on the topic I wrote about the three eras of telecom infrastructure hardware. As we are now entering the third area, there are not only whitepapers written about how everything from the radio network to the mobile core can be but into containers, but there are also demo videos of such solutions now on Youtube.

In this video, recorded at KubeCon/CloudNativeCon 2019 (yes, it’s already over one year old…), the Linux Foundation, China Mobile and Red Hat demonstrate a containerized end-to-end LTE/5G network solution during a presentation on stage. I watched a number of parts of the video several times to understand the full scope. And even though they struggled a bit with the demo during the presentation I was very impressed by what they showed:

  • A Faraday cage on stage with a radio front end inside for LTE and 5G mmWave coverage for a mobile device. I don’t think they mentioned the manufacturer of the RF unit.
  • The radio front end was connected to a baseband unit, referred to as combined CU (central unit) and DU (distributed unit). Those are terms that are used in the ORAN domain.
  • The hardware for the CU/DU came from Lenovo and is based on Intel x86 processors. They didn’t mention if any accelerator hardware was used.
  • The baseband software running on the CU/DU was from Altran, and ran inside containers on an OpenShift Cluster. OpenShift is the commercial Kubernetes product of Red Hat.
  • Two 4G/5G core networks were used. The software came from Altran running again on x86 based Lenovo servers in containers in Red Hat OpenShift Kubernetes clusters.
  • To make the demos more exciting, the core networks were not on site in San Diego but in Montreal, Canada and Sophia Antipolis, France.
  • Apart from Internet access, the demo included a SIP video call between the device in the Faraday cage and a device in France. Instead of the native IMS phone app, a SIP client app was used.

I wished I had been there as I’d have had a million questions about the details. Cool stuff!