Alibaba Innovative Research (AIR) > Research on Frontier Technologies in Data Center and Server
【CCF-AIR青年基金】Design and Implementation of Containerized 5G RAN Protocol Stack

Research Themes

Research on Frontier Technologies in Data Center and Server


The fifth generation (5G) mobile network is expected to provide support for various types of services and applications. As these services and applications can have different requirements in performance such as throughput, latency and reliability, they require high flexibility from the network design. However, the traditional network design based on specialized and customized hardware devices performs poorly when adapting to the varying performance requirements and incurs high deployment cost. To cope with such problem, softwarization and modularization have been widely adopted in the design and implementation of mobile network system. Softwarization allows the system to be built upon general-purpose hardware and reduces the deployment cost. Meanwhile, modularization improves the reusability and scalability of the system components, leading to better system flexibility.


Network system softwarization and modularization rely on network virtualization technology. As one of the popular virtualization methods, container technology is light-weighted and incurs low overhead, thus it makes a promising method for deploying the major component, i.e. Radio Access Network (RAN), of the 5G mobile network. Implementing virtualized 5G RAN (5G vRAN) system with containers includes dividing RAN as network functions and deploying them to general-purpose hardware devices. Compared with the other virtualization alternative, Virtual Machine (VM), container-based deployment has lower startup overhead and is easier to scale. In addition, communication between containers is generally of higher efficiency and more capable in meeting the communication requirement of different applications. With containerized 5G RAN system, we expect the following benefits,

1. Lower deployment cost.

2. More fine-grained network resource allocation, lower operating cost.

3. Improved system scalability and better adaptability to different workload and performance requirement of various services and applications.

However, designing a containerized 5G RAN system that is of high-efficiency, reliable and adaptable to varying performance requirements still remains a challenge. To summarize, the key design problems include:

1. Evaluation and optimization of 5G vRAN containerization overhead.

2. Efficiently splitting 5G vRAN protocol stack into network functions.

3. Designing high-performance container network for 5G vRAN system.

4. Designing an effective maintenance system for 5G vRAN.


  • A systematic evaluation of 5G vRAN containerization overhead and corresponding optimization design that minimizes or even eliminates the overhead.
  • An effective 5G vRAN protocol stack split design that ensures the quick deployment of the 5G vRAN system and has the ability to adapt to different user requirements and scale dynamically to different workloads.
  • A customized container network design for 5G vRAN system that optimizes the network overhead introduces by containerization and is capable of meeting the varying QoS requirement of different services and applications.
  • A 5G vRAN maintenance system that effectively manages and maintains the physical resources, and achieves quick failure detection and recovery.

Related Research Topics

  • Virtualization of RAN with virtual machines
  • Evaluation of fronthaul latency budget impacted by RAN virtualization
  • Dynamic resource allocation in 5G cloud-RAN
  • Computation resource sharing in 5G vRAN
  • 5G network function slicing orchestration design and optimization
  • Detection of latency anomalies in 5G RAN
  • Orchestrating lightpath adaptation and flexible functional split to recover vRAN connectivity
  • Utilizing Kubernetes for deploying 4G/5G core network

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