OpenRAN – A promising approach to achieve better network economics

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To handle the tsunami of data and associated use-cases expected with 5G, service providers need to densify and scale their network by multiple folds. The biggest challenge in doing so is the massive investment and optimized capital allocation. OpenRAN with its promise of better network economics is gaining popularity among the service provider community.

Acceptance of OpenRAN by industry leading service providers:

2019 was an ice-breaking year for OpenRAN technology and 2020 started with its widespread acceptance. Worldwide, several operators have been incubating this technology for quite a long time and now some of them have initiated deployment in a phase-wise manner. Taking a lead here, Rakuten is developing the world’s first fully virtualized mobile network with OpenRAN technology at its heart. According to Rakuten CTO Tariq Amin, OpenRAN framework is 40% cheaper than traditional telecom models. He further added, opex will be even better in terms of running and managing the network. Adding to the list, O2 UK, Telefonica, VIL and Dish have also revealed plans for deploying OpenRAN in a phase-wise manner. These service providers are working very closely with telecom open communities like Telecom Infra Project (TIP), ORAN Alliance etc. for developing the standards for a truly cloud based open and disaggregated network.

Top 5 key distinguished features of OpenRAN that inspires the service providers to build an open and disaggregated network with better economics:

a) Open Interfaces: Open standard interfaces allow operators to implement RU-DU-CU (5G) or RU-BBU (4G/LTE) from different vendors to build a best-of-breed multi-vendor network.

b) COTS deployment: Deployment of COTS (commercial off the shelf) brings flexibility to the procurement of network equipment. Emerging of start-ups 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 the lowest cost.

c) 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 scenarios to cater to dynamic changes in data demand.

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

e) Resource pooling: Virtualization helps in the optimization of network resources by enabling resource pooling. This helps in the reduction of inventory costs with the optimization of spare resources.

I believe with its ongoing acceptance, in near future OpenRAN will become 1st choice for developing radio networks, 5G and beyond!

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