The era of multi-layer protocol label switching between equipment and devices,
hardware and software’s in setting up of cellular networks are being considered past in
the C & I landscape of the 5G era. That is the way things are generally and currently
operationalized. However, the need to evolve to a more convenient and hassle free
setup is being realized strongly and fast. Dealing with multiplicity of control points are being considered complex and have to pass. The new era of 5G where speed and
agility are the key words, is the new age of Open Radio Access Network (RAN). Open
RAN is a standardization of gears for radio cellular access networks. It meets the
requirement to have a collapsed model of single control plane, making deployment of
5G and other networks less expensive. It will also usher in faster innovation of features
Telecom operators have for a long time been demanding for diversification in the supply chain of the telecommunication enterprise. There are security concerns in dealing with multiple parties separately and adhering to a variety of norms as well as issues of having very little scope for cost negotiation given the monopoly of a handful of organizations dominating the RAN market. Major spend in the supply chain is the network infrastructure, hence focus on diversification in this segment of supply chain was gaining attention.
Getting a little deeper into understanding the issue, RAN, as defined in the simplest terms serves as a connecting point between “base station transmitting and receiving traffic to and from endpoints like the cellphones, laptops etc linking them to their carrier core networks”
The RAN market, as indicated earlier, is dominated by a handful of Wireless equipment vendor organizations, who design gears as per their own requirement. The infrastructure they create is not such that can be interoperated between equipment of two different vendors. Hence, for deploying licensed wireless networks, operators are forced into vendor lock-in where they must depend on one vendor exclusively for their equipment..
Open RAN is an effort to disaggregate RAN functionality by splitting software and hardware thus opening up opportunities for diversifying the supply chain for the radio portion of the network.
“This newly created multi-supplier ecosystem uses cloud technologies, network virtualization, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning, open APIs and many of the other associated calling cards of 5G/cloud era communications”, is how it is explained by experts.
There is an industry-wide effort to create interoperability standards which facilitates mobile network operators (MNOs) aligning with new vendor partners. Cloudification of the RAN as also stimulating solution innovation for future new business opportunities by increasing competition are some other ventures being put into the matter.
O-RAN Alliance, Telecom infra project (TIP) are the likes of groups, between them encompassing all major MNOs and vendors, the latest entrant being Google, working towards opening up of RAN capabilities by setting standards, designing and building new technologies and innovative marketspaces. They are also focusing on including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in its standards which can augur automation benefits of saving time and money in setting up network softwares requiring less human involvement in the long run. Also, select operators from other countries of Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa have started looking towards experimentation in this segment. Multi vendor Open RANs are fast becoming a reality and live deployments have started coming online.
A collaborative effort is thus being made between equipment makers and telecoms to ensure interoperability and multi equipment compatibility with the help of standardized gears helping operators to choose from multi-vendor options available leading to better services and better negotiated prices both stemming out of the same competitive advantage bids.