Ciao Bella Radio! Telecom Italia Tests Altiostar

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2016 -- Altiostar's virtualized radio technology has found favor with Telecom Italia, which says it has completed initial lab tests with the Cisco-backed startup.

When Altiostar unveiled its virtualized RAN (vRAN) product in December 2015, the vendor said that it had several major operators testing the product. The vRAN product maps some of the baseband controller functions of traditional basestations so that they can be run on "white box" servers in a central location or closer to the edge of the network. This allows operators to pool or adjust radio resources, depending on traffic. Altiostar's selling point is it can support LTE-Advanced functions -- such as "carrier aggregation" radio-channel bonding for extra speed and capacity -- via an Ethernet connection rather than an expensive fiber link. (See Altiostar Intros vRAN.)

Telecom Italia (TIM) used its Ethernet backbone to connect vRAN servers in its Turin labs to radio nodes in Rome, 434 miles (700Km) apart. "It worked flawlessly," Kuntal Chowdhury, VP of Marketing at Altiostar, told Light Reading here in Barcelona Monday evening.

Telecom Italia is "starting field trials now," Chowdhury said. Altiostar has trials with five major carriers, he added, and many tests with smaller carriers.

The startup, however, now has competition, a fact that many noted here. Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) unveiled its plans for a virtualized split radio architecture just ahead of Mobile World Congress. The Swedish vendor, though, still has to work with the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to standardize its interface for linking the virtual baseband with the radios. It doesn't expect to see the virtual architecture in commercial service until 2018. (See Let's Split! Ericsson's New Adventures in Radio.)

To say that Altiostar is watching the Ericsson standardization work with interest would be an an understatement. "They split the radio at exactly the same place as us!" one employee told me.

Altiostar, however, appears to have an early lead in this new radio access network niche market. And the startup is well-backed by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and others, with around $120 million in funding. (See Altiostar Secures Another $50M in Funding , Cisco Invests in 4G LTE Startup Altiostar and C-RAN Blazes a Trail to True 4G.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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