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Blog Series Part II: The Benefits of OpenRAN

Saurav Jha

In the first part of the series of blog posts on OpenRAN, we focused on answering important questions like what is OpenRAN; what are the important aspects of OpenRAN; and how does OpenRAN differ from traditional RAN. In the second part of the series of blog posts, we will analyze how OpenRAN will impact the telecom industry and how telecom companies can leverage the benefits of OpenRAN fully.

As described in the first blog post, OpenRAN, unlike traditional RAN, decouples the hardware and software components of telecom networks. The decoupling enables telecom companies (telcos) to customize and expand networks by integrating software and hardware components provided by various vendors. In addition to facilitating and accelerating 5G implements, the OpenRAN technology will help telcos to boost the performance of 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.

Hence, the telcos can leverage the benefits of OpenRAN to transform and optimize their networks. But OpenRAN is a young technology. Despite creating many new use cases, the architecture creates many challenges for the telcos. The leading players in the telecom industries promote OpenRAN adoption by forming global partnerships like O-RAN Alliance. But the telcos have to address a slew of challenges and issues to transform their networks by leveraging the benefits of OpenRAN technology fully.

How Telcos Can Transform Their Networks by Leveraging the Benefits of OpenRAN?

Provide Telcos with More Options

While using traditional RAN, the telcos did not have the option to combine hardware and software components built by various vendors. Hence, they have to choose from a small number of vendors like Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and Samsung. But OpenRAN creates opportunities for telcos to work with both established companies and new entrants. Also, the technology will enable telcos to work with innovative components by making the network accessible to hardware designers.

Simplify and Speed up Network Deployment

The dependence of specific vendors made it difficult for telcos to set up and expand telcos on demand. The vendor lock-in further restricted the scope to experiment with new components. But OpenRAN will enable telcos to set up new networks and expand existing networks on demand. The telcos can further leverage the benefits of OpenRAN to customize and optimize the networks by integrating the right software and hardware components.

Reduce Base Station Deployment Cost

The vendor lock-in feature and restrictions imposed by vendors made it essential for telcos to invest additional resources and funds to deploy base stations. But OpenRAN allows telcos to choose from many large and small vendors. The competition promoted by the open architecture will gradually lead to a reduction in the cost of network equipment. Telcos can further decrease base station deployment cost by replacing key base station hardware with open-source and virtualized radio units.

Set up Energy-Efficient Base Stations

Along with simplifying network deployment and improving network performance, OpenRAN aims to make base stations more energy-efficient. Many telcos use the white-box base station hardware released by the O-RAN Alliance to decouple a network’s hardware and software components using reference platforms. Also, the white-box base station hardware supports both remote radio units (RRUs) and baseband units (BBUs). Hence, the telcos will leverage OpenRAN architecture to enhance their network’s energy efficiency.

Speed up 5G Deployment

As mentioned earlier, the network operators will leverage the benefits of OpenRAN to speed up 5G deployment. Unlike traditional RAN, OpenRAN supports multi-vendor component integration, breaks vendor lock-in, and curtails overall infrastructure cost. Hence, the telcos will use OpenRAN to roll out 5G networks on a larger scale. The architecture will further support several innovative use cases by keeping the next-generation 5G networks open and disaggregated.

Automate Complex Network Management

The 5G network will be much more complex than 4G networks. The telcos will need next-generation technology to manage the complex 5G networks efficiently. OpenRAN helps telcos to deploy, customize, and manage the complex 5G networks using artificial intelligence (AI).  Intelligence is one of the core principles based on which next-generation architecture is developed. The telcos can leverage the built-in intelligence to manage complex telecom networks like 5G efficiently and automatically. They can further leverage OpenRAN to manage and optimize the 5G networks without increasing overheads.

Adopt New Industry Standards

The accessibility and interoperability promoted by OpenRAN will result in new security threats and vulnerabilities. The telcos will perform elaborate security testing after integrating hardware and software components provided by different vendors. Also, they need to monitor network security continuously to identify and repair vulnerabilities proactively. But the security vulnerabilities and compatibility issues will soon result in several new industry standards related to computing, storage, and networking.

What Challenges Telcos Must Address to Leverage the Benefits of OpenRAN Fully?

As mentioned earlier, OpenRAN is a new technology. The telcos have to resolve several new issues related to compliance and interoperability to leverage the benefits of OpenRAN technology to speed up 5G deployments and improve the performance of their 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. The architecture enables telcos to integrate hardware and software components provided by multiple vendors.

But the hardware and software components built by various companies must be compatible and interoperate seamlessly with each other to improve network functionality and performance. The telcos need new-age test automation tools to validate the hardware and software components procured from various vendors. Also, they need to validate these components at various stages of deployment and maintenance.

Simnovus makes it easier for telcos to validate software and hardware components procured from different vendors by launching an innovative test automation solution like Simnovator (Simnovus UE Simulator). The basic design goal of Simnovator is to help telcos leverage the benefits of OpenRAN fully and bring the next generation network architecture to the masses. Both network equipment vendors and telecom network operators can use this commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) to leverage the benefits of OpenRAN architecture fully.

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