Open RAN – At the epicenter of 5G digital transformation, Telecom News, ET Telecom
By Parag Naik
5G networks are expected to lead digital transformation in an increasingly connected world. Besides high speed internet connectivity and faster communication, high speed and low latency network will provide a big boost to IoT and M2M communication. The transformative effects of 5G will be felt in healthcare, education, smart cities, autonomous vehicles and many other diverse industries.
Open RAN is at the epicenter of this digital transformation and plays a critical role in bringing more diversity and innovation to the 5G ecosystem. Open RAN solutions will reshape the ecosystem of mobile networks in general and 5G networks in particular by integrating more equipment vendors into the ecosystem and enabling the adoption of more open source and cloud technologies in the ecosystem. RAN otherwise closed. It will also lead to greater disruption of the traditional ecosystem and accelerate the adoption of more innovative technologies.
Diversity of equipment suppliers
Prior to the advent of Open RAN solutions, 2G / 3G / 4G RAN networks were closed, proprietary designs and therefore interoperability issues made it difficult to deploy multi-vendor RAN devices. The RAN infrastructure market was dominated by a few large telecommunications equipment manufacturers. Network operators relied heavily on a single vendor for all aspects of RAN implementation and optimization.
The open RAN solution disaggregated the RAN. This will give flexibility to MNOs. Instead of relying on aggregate proprietary equipment from a few dominant vendors, Open RAN solutions allow MNOs to work with a multi-vendor radio access network. This allows the mobile network operator to mix and match hardware and software from different vendors to create the RAN. They can consult multiple vendors for various components and select the best vendors based on their needs.
The diversity of equipment suppliers leads to the development of a RAN ecosystem. Many smaller and specialized OEMs are entering the market. This increased competition leads to more innovation and the development of better solutions that help reduce the total cost of ownership for RAN.
The disaggregation and virtualization of 5G networks is increasingly making radio access networks look like cloud computing networks. All the scaling benefits accumulated in an IT cloud network are transferred to the telco cloud, simplifying deployment, provisioning and automation, using the AI-ML application. The RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) is included in the Open RAN architecture. This provides advanced control functionality and offers increased efficiency and better management of radio resources through analytical and data-driven approaches and the use of AI-ML tools.
RAN cloudification, made possible through Open RAN solutions, allows 5G networks to manage sophisticated applications that require more computing power. These cloud-native and cloud-native technologies will not only reduce costs, but also reduce operational complexity and speed time to market for new services.
This is a huge opportunity for telecommunications service providers. The telco cloud will allow the disaggregation of resources. It will also allow telecom operators to scale up or scale down data center and cell site deployments as needed. The elasticity it offers will allow operators to “provision on the fly” and improve network efficiency. In addition, telecom operators can benefit from the advantage of pooling gains.
RAN disaggregation also added other benefits by allowing better network slicing and edge computing capabilities. Open RAN deployments at the edge of the network can be beneficial for some applications like IOT, connected cars, etc. With a disaggregated network in Open RAN, computing power can be pushed to the edge of the cloud, while other processes remain at the core. Local application data would be processed at the edge of the network and only a small amount of data would be transmitted to the core of the network.
Edge computing as well as network slicing will allow a mobile network operator to design and provision the network based on the end user’s application. This will open up a world of new 5G use cases in industries such as security, gaming, healthcare, self-driving cars, and smart cities, among others.
One of the main drivers of the open RAN movement is the expected cost-benefit ratio for operators in terms of the total cost of ownership of the RAN network over a period of time. The introduction of new players and the introduction of standard commercial hardware and open source software are expected to bring capital and operating expenses to network operators. Such cost advantages play a central role in the large-scale adoption and proliferation of 5G networks and will therefore accelerate digital transformation in all industries.
All of these benefits come with their own set of challenges. One of these challenges is the diversity of equipment vendors and the disaggregation of the RAN, resulting in large-scale interoperability issues. And on top of that, many of the new equipment vendors entering the market will have their own startup issues in terms of product maturity. As the challenges to realizing the true potential of Open RAN systems persist, rapid progress has been made by most of these innovative small businesses to overcome them and prepare to write their own success stories in the future of digital transformation. .
(Parag Naik is co-founder and CEO, Saankhya Labs)