Mobile network operators (MNOs) are known for their ability to build and operate massive, high-performance wireless networks. They rely on highly specialized radio access and networking equipment with tightly integrated proprietary software to deliver the cellular services that connect our cell phones, tablets, computers, and other devices.

In a price sensitive market like India, telecommunication companies will have to ensure cost-effective and early deployment of services as well as generate additional revenue streams to stay ahead of the curve. However, high costs, limited flexibility, and constrained vendor choices are prompting MNOs to shift away from such systems towards more open, standards-based, software-centric platforms. That’s where the Open RAN comes into the fray.

The Open RAN Effect

Open RAN’s momentum is growing as the ecosystem develops, partnerships form, suppliers ramp up their investments, and operators are committed to experimentation, trials, and deployments. Now, finally, open RAN is riding the wave of several technological trends, including 5G, cloud virtualization, distributed edge computing, and artificial intelligence (AI)—driven automation. All of these factors help push open RAN from just an idea into a reality.

Virtualizing the RAN and replacing proprietary interfaces with standards-based interfaces enables interoperability and multivendor RAN deployments. This gives network operators more flexibility to pick and choose among best-of-breed solution providers. Open RAN can not only lower costs but also prompt greater innovation through competition, as well as allow MNOs to avoid restricted vendors. Additionally, because open RAN allows operators to use software to push out network functions and intelligent automation, virtual architectures can speed the roll-out of new services that can help carriers better manage their networks, improving network performances.

Lower Cost of Ownership

Open RAN allows operators to pick and choose among vendors—not just traditional telecom vendors, but big tech companies such as hardware manufacturers, webscalers, original design manufacturers, and others looking to enter the market. The ability to change out individual RAN components with off-the-shelf hardware from any vendor can improve flexibility as well as reduce costs and downtime for system scaling and maintenance

Additionally, open RAN itself has the potential to reduce ongoing network operating and maintenance expenses while simultaneously addressing the conflicting challenge of rising data traffic growth and customer expectations. These software-mediated RAN architectures empower operators with new levels of operational flexibility and intelligent automation that fundamentally shift how they manage networks. Open RAN and its programmable infrastructure also make it simpler and more cost-effective to roll out new features and functions at distributed RAN locations at a mobile network’s edge. Moreover, open interfaces enable these new network features and functions to operate on any vendor’s hardware without having to send out engineers and technicians for vendor-specific integration, as is common practice today. Thus, open RAN could replace much of the time-consuming and manual work of maintaining, upgrading, and optimizing networks with a light touch, centrally managed, automated computing processes. upgrading, and optimizing networks with a light touch, centrally managed automated computing processes.

Open RAN Leads to Innovation

Beyond the CAPEX and OPEX savings discussed above, open RAN also drives faster innovation. Instead of having to replace network gear to introduce new features and functions, MNOs using open RAN can use software updates on white-box gear to affect change, materially shortening upgrade and innovation cycles. Moreover, vendor interoperability negates the need to send out technicians for custom onsite integrations, further reducing the time, effort, and cost of launching new products and services.

Suppliers also benefit from open RAN because it opens up market participation and lowers barriers to entry. Because of interoperability, vendors can develop products and solutions for use by multiple operators instead of having to create unique one-offs for a specific operator. Interoperability also fosters best-of-breed solutions because vendors can focus on what they do best—whether hardware, software, or silicon—instead of having to develop an entire integrated end-to-end system.

One of the most important aspects of the open RAN is that its systems enable MNOs to leverage insights from the traffic flowing across their networks to develop solutions that improve network performance. Open interfaces encourage third-party development of AI/machine learning-driven solutions, which help operators deal with an increasing array of bandwidth-intensive applications and the explosion of data flowing over ubiquitous networks and devices. Applications such as RAN intelligent controllers (RICs) and self-optimizing networks (SONs) are emerging as essential and cost-effective methods to manage future network complexity. The ultimate objective is to lower costs and achieve super-lean operations with zero-touch, fully automated end-to-end network management and service orchestration using AI-optimized closed-loop automation.

In Conclusion

In short, Open RAN seems to be a good bet for all players. For telecoms, it lowers CAPEX & OPEX, bringing in more efficiency and innovative solutions with the quicker deployment of 5G. For system integrators, it is a way of expanding their reach globally. And for software makers, it is an opportunity to build better solutions for the global market. As such, it’s safe to say that the entire mobile network ecosystem will venture into a new future.

VIAVI Solutions provides comprehensive Open RAN Testing Solutions from the lab to the field, giving the capability for testing both individual O-RU, O-DU, O-CU, and near-RT RIC network elements, as well as combined elements and full end-to-end open network validation. VIAVI also offers end-to-end network solutions through 350+ global Channel Partners to meet your needs. 

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Channel Marketing Manager - APAC

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