The future of 5G and 6G is without a doubt the Open Radio Access Network. The industry discussed innovations at the Future of Connectivity FYUZ event from October 25th to 27th in Madrid, Spain. Leading mobile operators agree on the disruptive potential of Open RAN, but recognize that collaboration, scaling and standardization are the main challenges.
The Open RAN Summit was hosted by the Telecom Infra Project and the O-RAN Alliance. It included executives and representatives from Vodafone, Intel, Orange, Telefonica, Dell, Lenovo, Accenture, Mavenir, USAID, Meta and others.
The Challenges of Open RAN
Open RAN is a new approach to building and deploying telecom infrastructure, replacing most of the hardware with virtual machines running in the cloud. Open RAN makes deployment and scaling faster and cheaper, but it doesn’t come without many challenges.
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As hardware, software, and telecom companies work together to create an open virtualized cloud network, standardization is key. Open RAN not only requires collaboration between operators, as technology companies need to produce devices that are compatible with the new system.
Open RAN is also proposed as a solution for rapid 5G deployment. However, the technology requires something the telecom industry has never done before: shifting business models from competition to collaboration.
In addition, the technology opened the doors to numerous new companies developing parts of the network, and this profusion of vendors presents another challenge: interoperability.
Open RAN is gaining momentum around the world
TIP’s OpenRAN project group announced that it has accelerated the development and delivery of open, disaggregated, and standards-based technology solutions that deliver the high-quality connectivity the world needs.
The industry has defined a new approach to building networks as global consumers take traffic demands to new levels. To address the need for fast, reliable, and cost-effective connectivity services, the TIP Fixed Broadband Project Group created the Open Fixed Access Networks subgroup. The group is a collaboration between major industry players including Telefonica, TIM and Vodafone.
“At Telefonica we fully support this new project as the next step to commercialize and deploy technologies based on robust and mature industry standards,” said Jose Torrijos Gijon of Telefonica. “Ultimately, we believe that the Open Fixed Access Networks project will play a crucial role in the introduction of new technologies and new services as we prepare for the next evolution of our access networks.”
TIP is now focused on improving interoperability and diversity in the network. They accelerate innovation by modernizing operations and leveraging Open RAN architectures.
“At Vodafone, we see that openness and disaggregation are key principles that will enable us to build the flexible and agile network we need to support our evolving customer needs,” said Bruno Cornaglia, Fixed Access Senior Manager at Vodafone, during the event. “Our work in this area complements similar work elsewhere in the network.”
The disaggregation of Open RAN provides an opportunity for supply chain expansion as new hardware and software vendors emerge. TIP has added 141 new Open RAN product listings from 53 technology vendors to its TIP Exchange. This includes products from Comba, Dell, Fujitsu, NEC, STL, Supermicro and many more technology providers, but as supply chain providers proliferate, interoperability between them and integration becomes paramount.
Open RAN roadmaps, resources and capabilities
The organization also published the roadmap of Open RAN (Figure A), which are detailed technical requirements documents and resources for companies working to scale and integrate the technology. TIP presented the results of validation and testing solutions, operational labs, live networks and partner labs from worldwide projects and showed the strong momentum that Open RAN trails and deployments have internationally.
In India – in the largest global 5G deployment – the most extensive Open RAN 5G blueprint test validation has been completed. TIP made the blueprint available to other industries to accelerate the deployment of RAN architectures for 5G networks.
System integrators, mobile operators, technology companies, and others in the industry are collaborating with TIP to develop global Open RAN solutions, and TIP members are on the rise. The organization now has over 130 service providers, more than 90 vendors and 140 system integrators.
To speed up integration, TIP introduced the TIP Testing and Validation Framework. The framework eliminates the need for extensive third-party integrations or internal testing. The aim is to lower the market entry barriers and bring innovations to the market faster.
“Open RAN vendor consortia are now commonplace, and Open RAN systems are being tested, certified, and deployed commercially, but we need a way to scale through training system installers, integrators, and operator technical experts,” said John Baker, Sr Vice President of Ecosystem Business Development at Mavenir.
Since Open RAN is a new technology, expert training is essential. TIP partnered with Accenture and began qualifying professionals through the TIP Academy. With a focus on providing the necessary skills for industry professionals charged with the responsibility of accelerating Open RAN deployment, they have created 45 Open RAN courses.
TIP Academy courses cover the end-to-end fundamentals of financial assessment, architecture, planning, design, testing and deployment of Open RAN systems. Vodafone, Meta, Accenture, Orange and Deutsche Telekom are among the first companies to commit to training TIP Academy employees. Courses have been further enhanced with contributions from the TIP ecosystem, including Rimedo Labs, Spirent, NEC, Rebaca, Intel, Analog Devices and IBM.
Increased vendor diversity and economic growth opportunities of Open RAN networks can also help close the digital divide in emerging markets.
“Through our International Open RAN initiative, USAID is driving these opportunities by educating current and future telecom professionals,” said Tom Koutsky, Senior Connectivity Policy Advisor at USAID. “We are pleased to partner with TIP and its TIP Academy to address this important need in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.”
Network virtualization can create an open collaboration system and remove many obstacles that connectivity faces in modernizing. To solve challenges, technology companies, mobile, software and major operators are collaborating like never before to build the future global Open RAN network today.