Open, Disaggregated and Virtualized RAN

RAN being the most important component accounts for approximately 60-70 percent of the total cost of ownership in building and managing a radio network.However, the way a RAN is distributed, the centralization of workload presents significant challenges in terms of network congestion, capital expenditure and launching new services on the fly.This calls for a flexible RAN which will configure dynamically based on usage and coverage. This flexibility provides broader choices for placement of RAN components and hence improving overall spectral efficiency and network capacity. Read More..

At STL, together with our partners, we offer open and virtualized RAN which is a cloud-based radio access network solution to help service providers create an Open, Disaggregated and Virtualized 5GC solution aligned with 3GPP. It helps in disaggregating RAN, virtualize its components, realize virtualized components in the edge cloud and SDNise it for programmability.We are in the process of certifying specific uses cases in the field by working with leading mobile operators as well as private enterprises. Thus, they will be offering fully programmable, genuinely open, and wholly disaggregated 5G-NR and Private LTE solution that’s economical and enables cloud delivery models. Read Less..

Key elements

3 Core elements of vRAN:

Radio unit (RU): In radio part we offer macro, micro, small cells and indoor radios as per network requirement. Our radios come with open fronthaul interface to facilitate vendor neutral RAN ecosystem. These are logical nodes hosting Low-PHY layer and RF processing based on a lower layer functional split. Here the O-RU terminates the Open fronthaul Interface as well as Low-PHY functions of the radio interface towards the UE, which is a physical node.

Below are the distinguished features and specifications of STL radio unit:

  • STL radio units are based on state-of-the-art multi-standard technology and can operate in LTE, and 5G mode using FDD, TDD
  • STL RAN products are built on Open standards that provides flexibility and scalability across technologies and deployment models
  • It supports GUI-based Web management and can interwork with any front haul and backhaul.
  • It works well with with ORAN standardized interface to CU/DU, EMS and Orchestrators
  • Totally Compliant with Split -7.2 and Split-2 CU-DU-RU architecture

Open and virtualized distribution unit (oDU) : STL with its partner ecosystem has developed an OPEN RAN based DU which could be hosted on any standard COTS based infrastructure. It’s a logical node hosting RLC/MAC/High-PHY layers based on a lower layer functional split. Here he DU and RRU function includes real-time L2 functions, base band processing and radio frequency processing. This DU infrastructure can be integrated with any white box RU with open front haul interface.

Open and virtualized central unit (oCU) : STL with its partner ecosystem has developed a CU software stack which could host multiple DU and RU while sitting at Datacentre or IT infra. It’s a logical node hosting the RRC and the control plane part of the PDCP protocol.


Multivendor ecosystem
OpenRAN architecture allows multivendor compatibility and hence increases competition for rapid innovation
Cost optimization
Disaggregation allows operators to use COTS (commercial off the shelf) equipment and hence helps in reducing capex as well as provide multiple deployment scenarios
Breaking the traditional monolithic approach, OpenRAN presents an opportunity to select best of breed equipment and hence reduces cost by competitive pricing
Enhanced security
COTS infrastructure allows operators to put strong identity certificates in the network at every interface including radio access
To handle abrupt data demands, virtualization helps in allocating network resources effectively and hence overall better performance

Network economics

OpenRAN provides an opportunity to reduce both capex and opex of an operator’s network. This makes a perfect case for operators to go for network upgradation using OpenRAN. On one hand deployment of white-boxes and multivendor compatibility helps in reducing capex, on another hand virtualization helps in reducing opex over a long time. Below features of OpenRAN can help in significant overall cost reduction, if deployed prudently.

COTS deployment : Deployment of COTS (commercial off the shelf) brings flexibility to procurement of network equipment. Emerging of start-up’s in this field is generating price pressure over bigger vendors to reduce cost. This opens a larger competitive market for RAN equipment and hence there is an opportunity for operators to buy equipment at lowest cost.

Disaggregation : Decoupling of hardware from software enable operators to buy RAN components individually and hence an opportunity to buy best of breed. This also helps in developing multiple deployment scenario to cater dynamic changes in data demand.

Zero touch provisioning : Zero touch model will improve operations by automating the regular functions. This further reduces the need of human capital and hence can reduce opex to a large extent.

Resource pooling : Virtualization helps in optimization of network resources by enabling resource pooling. This will reduce inventory cost with reduction of spare resources.

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Want to know more?

5G typically refers to the fifth generation of wireless technology and NR or commonly known as New Radio is a set standard developed by the 3GPP Group (Release 15 being the first version introduced back in 2018) outlining the technology required to harness the newly-available millimeter-wave frequencies. The two frequency bands in which 5GNR operates are Frequency Range 1 ie Sub 6GHz band (410 MHz to 7125 MHz) and Frequency Range 2 ie millimeter-wave (24.25 GHz to 52.6 GHz). Over 4G LTE, 5G NR provides better spectrum utilization, faster data rates, hardware efficiency, and improved signal processing.

From a deployment standpoint, we have Non-Standalone Mode(NSA), Dynamic Spectrum Sharing(DSS), and Standalone Mode (SA). The initial deployments of 5G NR are based on NSA standards, meaning the existing 4G LTE network will operate on the control plane, and 5G NR will be introduced to the user plane. This particular standard was introduced by 3GPP keeping in mind the industry's push to faster 5G services rollout while utilising the existing 4G LTE infrastructure, currently in place. On the other hand, operators are also implementing Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) for accelerating the deployment cycle, reducing the costs, and improving spectrum utilisation . In this standard same spectrum is shared between the 5G NR and 4G LTE, while being multiplexed over time as per the user demands. Lastly, we have the Standalone Mode (SA) which is moving towards a complete 5G based network where both signaling and the information transfer are driven by a 5G cell.

Going forward, 5G will enable new services, connect new industries and devices, empower new experiences, and much more, providing mission-critical services, enhanced mobile broadband, and massive number of things.

a) Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) Applications: High device connectivity, High mobile data rates, and Mobile AR & VR applications
b) Ultra-reliable, low-latency communications (uRLLC)Applications: Autonomous vehicles, Drones, Data monitoring, Smart mfg.
c) Massive machine-type communications (mMTC)Applications: Healthcare, Industry 4.0, Logistics, Environmental monitoring, Smart farming, Smart grids

vRAN or commonly known Virtualised Radio Access Network is a network

Open Radio Access Network is a modern wireless network architecture that enables vendor interoperability, flexibility, and agility for service providers by getting rid of integrated proprietary hardware and software. In comparison to the legacy networks, this solution enables disaggregation of hardware and software with virtualisation, open interfaces, and cloud-based software solutions. The organisations currently working on the development of open RAN standards are Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and O-RAN Alliance.

A typical mobile network comprises of a core network (where service requests are made), an access network (that interacts directly with the user interface), and a transport network (connects core and access) or commonly known as backhaul. Both the core network and access network comprise of specialised software and hardware components. In particular, the Open RAN primarily focuses on the openness and interoperability of RAN elements. A legacy RAN network has all the electronics on one side (BBU, Base Band Unit + RU, Radio Unit) with antennas at the top of the tower, connected by RF cables which caused signal attenuation and cabling issues. Transitioning from 3G to 4G, this approach was revamped across the industry and the RU was moved closer to the antenna resulting in the reduction of RF signal losses. RU was now referred to as RRU or Remote Radio Unit comprising of proprietary hardware elements and BBU comprising of proprietary software running on proprietary hardware, connected via proprietary interface or commonly know as CPRI ie Common Public Radio Interfaces.

Coming to the next step ie virtualised RAN or vRAN, the BBU becomes a proprietary software with virtualised network functions that run on Commercial off-the-shelf (CTOS) servers while the RRU and connecting interface remain proprietary.

In Open RAN approach:-
a) RRU is a Commercial off-the-shelf (CTOS) based hardware making it vendor agnostic
b) BBU is proprietary software with virtualised network functions that run on Commercial off-the-shelf (CTOS) servers
c) The interface between RRU and BBU becomes an open interface ie allowing any vendor software to run on any vendor hardware

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