Viavi, VMware announce RIC testbed as a service

The two companies hope to drive standardized RIC testing with the new solution

Viavi Solutions on Wednesday announced that it’s signed a partnership agreement with VMware to develop a testbed as a service for RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) testing. Viavi said it hopes the new service will accelerate Open RAN adoption through the development of standardized frameworks and metrics for RIC testing.

“The two companies will work together to demonstrate compliance with RIC-related requirements, assisting CSPs in validating the solution in the lab and scaling the solution to production,” said Viavi.

The centerpieces of the testbed as a service are VIAVI’s own TeraVM RIC Test and the VMware RIC itself. TeraVM RIC Test is a virtualized test tool that provides a way for developers to test RAN traffic scenarios in real time to test the functions of the RIC, without needing to deploy on an actual RAN. TeraVM RIC Test provides emulated RAN measurements to the RIC, making changes based on the outputs from the RIC. Viavi says this simplifies the process of improving RAN efficiency.

Viavi pointed to its leadership position as a member of the O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project (TIP) to help define RIC test processes. The two companies promised to work together to drive consensus around RIC testing methodology and performance metrics, starting with the development of pre-built test cases for the RIC and xApps and rApps.

“The RIC represents a huge opportunity to the industry: Applying AI/ML techniques allows operators to simplify the management of complex 5G configurations and dynamically optimize the network to cater for new use cases, energy efficiency, and changing traffic patterns,” said Ian Langley, Viavi’s SVP and GM of wireless business.

Viavi sees the development of RIC technology as essentially the “rebranding of SON (Self-Organizing Network),” according to Owen O’Donnell, Viavi’s head of marketing for TeraVM, who spoke at this year’s Open RAN Global Forum.

“It’s no coincidence that RIC is shaping up just as Open RAN technology takes off,” he added. “The RIC itself is sometimes called the next-generation SON, and it brings to the market so much more than SON.”

’Donnell said that Viavi Solutions is seeing RIC vendors, research bodies and universities, and third-party start-ups develop xApps and rApps, which he says offer a way for network operators to differentiate their network’s performance. The xApp vendors themselves, he said, are likely to want to prove their xApps’ ability to make percentage-improvements on specific network KPIs. He sees an opportunity for a new kind of integration lab for xApp benchmarking and certification.

For VMware, the opportunity to collaborate with Viavi is a way to ease the burden of Open RAN systems certification and adoption by CSPs and mobile network operators. 

“Our companies share a vision of what it will take to address the challenges hindering adoption by simplifying the path for CSPs to test, profile, and certify third-party xApps and rApps through a common framework,” said Lakshmi Mandyam, VP of VMware’s service provider product management and partner ecosystem.

Viavi made the announcement in conjunction with VMWare Explore Europe, an event happening this week in Barcelona, Spain. On Tuesday, VMware announced data sovereignty updates to their cloud services portfolio, including Tanzu and Aria Operations. VMware debuted its RIC in late 2021. Building on its efforts to develop its Telco Cloud Platform RAN, VMware announced the RIC commensurate with a new developer program to help stimulate developer interest in making xApps and rApps to run on the platform.

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