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The Benefits of OpenRAN

The Benefits of OpenRAN

Uday Parida

Uday Parida

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.

Creates New Revenue Opportunities

OpenRAN has already created new revenue opportunities for both NEMs and Telcos. Many telcos have already adopted the technology to curtail overall network costs. Also, the leading NEMs have been gradually adopting OpenRAN technology to retain competitive edge which they have been maintaining since several years. The open interfaces and standardization encourages startups like Altiostar and Radisys to develop innovative hardware and software components to drive 5G deployment.
At present, OpenRAN is one of the hottest trends in the telecom industry. But the O-RAN Alliance was formed only in early 2018. With more and more industry players joining O-RAN Alliance, OpenRAN technology will evolve regularly. Also, the new initiatives taken by the O-RAN alliance will make most of the hardware and software components interoperate with each other regardless of their manufacturers.

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.

Reduces Overall Telecom Infrastructure Cost

Along with simplifying telecom network deployment, OpenRAN architecture helps telcos to curtail infrastructure costs significantly. As the telcos are not required to use proprietary hardware or software, they can reduce costs by avoiding vendor lock-in. Also, they can save OPEX by procuring software and hardware components from small vendors and startups. More and more telcos have been investigating the potential and promise of OpenRAN architecture with the intention to reduce upfront infrastructural overheads without impacting the customer experience.

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.