Breaking down the pros of Open RAN

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Breaking down the pros of Open RAN

Let’s frame the Open RAN value proposition to better understand the benefits of disaggregating radio hardware and software, trading single-purpose equipment for general-purpose hardware and moving vital network functions into the cloud. First and foremost, network economics need to change; for 5G, and LTE, to scale and provide the kind of meaningful business value touted in press releases and sales briefs, something has to give. Telecom operators are dropping billions of dollars every year into building networks yet are met with stagnating ARPUs, operational complexities that introduce more costs, and it’s not sustainable. 

Facebook Connectivity Vice President Dan Rabinovitsj described it as “an economic imperative. [Operators are] going to be buying a lot more stuff, particularly RAN equipment. By focusing now on converting that to an open architecture, an open standard and a potential to source white box hardware, I think this really changes the game.” 

Tying that specifically to Open RAN, he continued: “The reason why Open RAN has become so interesting is because, for the first time, the telecom infra industry and the mobile operators that are driving the purchase of a lot of this equipment, they realize they need to get away from their monolithic supply chain.” Following the predominant network deploything thinking means operators “effectively…end up with very little control over the outcome themselves. They’re very dependent on their suppliers to deliver the technology, the experience and also the pace of innovation. This has really been one of the founding principles of TIP–let’s disaggregate the hardware and software, let’s reinvigorate the tech stack inside of mobile operators because they lost the engineering muscle that they used to have. By doing that, this creates a more diverse supply chain, it gives operators more freedom to choose how and when they’re going to deploy certain kinds of technology and features, etc…and also gives them the opportunity to reshape the operation of their network and the maintenance and support and deployment of that.” 

Another big driver of Open RAN is optionality–letting operators mix and match equipment and vendors and products which, in turn, allows for more flexibility in how networks are built and what those networks can support in terms of use cases. If your goal is coverage, you can economically expand by using existing central offices or regional data centers to support CUs that can be connected to DUs and RRUs in areas that need better cellular coverage. If the angle is an enterprise network, a CU could be hosted at an existing core site and a DU turned up in an on-prem data center; add some radios and you’ve got a campus network. This ability to customize parallels the broad premise of 5G as a flexible network that can be what the user needs it to be. 

As Viavi Solutions’ Marketing Manager Owen O’Donnell put it, “[Operators] couldn’t plug and play bits of [infrastructure]between different manufacturers. It was all proprietary. It was all very limited in choice. The biggest advantage it gives operators is the freedom to choose the individually disaggregated components from different vendors. The best in class that suits their use cases while knowing full well that the open interfaces mean that they should all work when plugged and played together.” 

Speaking in a keynote address during IFA, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon discussed the company’s role in Open RAN–he said modern networks are becoming more “virtual, modular and interoperable. Cellular infrastructure is evolving to become more open, innovative and competitive.” The roadmap for 5G encompasses a huge variety of use cases; in this context, flexibility will be key. 

Qualcomm’s 5G RAN platform, initially launched in 2018, is being used by numerous infrastructure providers, including Airspan, Altiostar, Baicells, Corning, Radisys, Rakuten, Samsung, Sercomm and now, Japanese powerhouses Fujitsu and NEC.

In response to a question from RCR Wireless News, Amon discussed Open RAN as a potential vector of disruption to traditional network equipment providers. “I believe that vRAN and Open RAN creates a huge opportunity for some of the network equipment providers that will lead the transition in what Infrastructure 2.0 is.” He said incumbents could “take a leading role in the software that will run in those networks and will provide feature parity between the existing systems and the new systems.”

He added, “It could be an interesting opportunity for some of the existing players to, over time, evolve into a very powerful software provider in addition to what they do today in providing an integrated solution.” RAN disaggregation, Amon said, “creates a significant opportunity, I think, for Qualcomm. We’re one of the few companies that have the assets that we can build the engine of the new Open RAN base station and we’re very excited about that opportunity.”

Deutsche Telekom earlier this year announced it is working with VMware and Intel on an “open and intelligent virtual RAN…platform, based on O-RAN standards.” DT Board Member Claudia Nemat also appeared during Amon’s keynote. She linked Open RAN to “flexibility, scalability and accelerated innovation…Open RAN for me primarily means a modular hardware and software setup utilizing all the benefits coming from virtualization and cloud together with open interfaces.” 

While the Open RAN conversation is often focused on smaller, newer equipment suppliers, it’s important to note that major incumbent vendors like Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung are all tracking the opportunity and adapting their product portfolios. 

While the Open RAN conversation is often focused on smaller, newer equipment suppliers, it’s important to note that major incumbent vendors like Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung are all tracking the opportunity and adapting their product portfolios. 

Back to this idea of Open RAN as an economic imperative, Parallel Wireless CEO Steve Papa touched on the notion of openness as it relates to RAN and also how geopolitics and history should inform lawmakers’ current postures toward fostering a U.S. telecom ecosystem. He said the Open RAN business model matches the generational shift in cellular. “The economics of a coverage technology and architecture don’t scale well as a capacity architecture. The entire business models of the incumbent vendors don’t work and don’t map to what the people deploying the equipment require given the economic realities.”

The post Breaking down the pros of Open RAN appeared first on RCR Wireless News.

Let’s frame the Open RAN value proposition to better understand the benefits of disaggregating radio hardware and software, trading single-purpose equipment for general-purpose hardware and moving vital network functions into the cloud. First and foremost, network economics need to change; for 5G, and LTE, to scale and provide the kind of meaningful business value touted […]

The post Breaking down the pros of Open RAN appeared first on RCR Wireless News.

Sean Kinney, Editor in Chiefhttp://www.rcrwireless.com/20200925/open_ran/breaking-down-the-pros-of-open-ran?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rcrwireless%2FsLmV+%28RCR+Wireless+News%29http://feeds.feedburner.com/rcrwireless/sLmV?format=xmlRCR Wireless News

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Wireless News CampaignSeptember 26, 2020

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