Open RAN is a technology that makes it easier for wireless operators to share data. It also has many other benefits, including reduced network cost and increased innovation. While it may seem an overstated goal, an open network policy can help increase American innovation and competitiveness. Unfortunately, the term “open RAN” has been used to refer to a preference for openness rather than a policy.
Open RAN technology
Open RAN has the potential to improve supply chains and foster innovation. But this open standard has some potential drawbacks, including the fact that there are multiple vendors and security concerns. While Verizon has reservations about the technology, it plans to add Open RAN-compliant equipment later this year. The European market is likely to lag behind Asia and North America.
The most likely opportunities for open RAN technology are emerging markets, and new network builds. Some MNOs are already testing the technology in rural markets, while other options will likely arise as 5G evolves. Dish Network, for instance, recently inked a deal with Samsung. Other companies that are already using Open RAN include Fujitsu and MTI.
With the escalating demand for data, operators must upgrade their radio access networks, which are currently dominated by proprietary technologies. To help overcome these challenges, the Open RAN project group was formed to develop a vendor-neutral technology based on open interfaces and community-developed standards. This open, decoupling approach enables operators to take advantage of a broader range of new technologies and to help the ecosystem meet its connectivity goals.
Open RAN is also open in terms of hardware. COTS hardware is the basis of OpenRAN operating software. Moreover, the network architecture allows for “white box” RAN hardware. The underlying hardware layer is retained on the site, and only the software needs to be updated.
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Organizations driving the evolution of Open RAN
Several industry organizations are driving the Open RAN initiative. Two of these organizations are the Telecom Infra Project and TIP. Both are engineering-focused collaborative methodologies that aim to make telecommunications infrastructure more affordable and open for all. These organizations work with mobile operators to accelerate innovation and build future networks.
Telecom operators have recognized the value of Open RAN and are evaluating it for deployment in their networks. For example, mobile operators can use it for edge network-based wireless surveillance and for meeting the requirements of enhanced mobile broadband and ultra-low latency. The open architecture also enables mobile operators to reduce the cost of policy enforcement and firmware transport.
Open RAN architectures will enable more flexible and customizable networks with greater security and reliability. They will also allow lower operational and capital costs and enable new functions and features. Unlike proprietary RAN systems, open RAN is cloud-native, which can help mobile operators future-proof their investment in their physical network.
While Open RAN has numerous benefits, there are still many challenges. The technology is still young and is not widely adopted by telcos. The manufacturing capability for open RAN hardware is not fully developed. This could discourage operators from fully committing to the technology. Additionally, open RAN may not be as cost-effective as current technologies, preventing some operators from making the switch. Organizations such as the Open RAN Alliance are working to remove barriers to adoption to overcome these challenges.
Impact of Open RAN on cellular networks.
Open RAN is a cellular network model that promotes modularity and openness. It eliminates proprietary interfaces and licensing restrictions, allowing network operators to select the components they want to use. In addition, the open RAN model also encourages more excellent choices among vendors. The U.S. government has already embraced this model to break free from Huawei.
The experts who spoke at the event were Andre Fuetsch, the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of AT&T Services, Inc. He moderated a fireside chat that included Amit Mital, Senior Director for Cybersecurity at the National Security Council. Other panelists included Diane Rinaldo, the Executive Director of the Open RAN Policy Coalition, and Douglas Gardner, Chief Technology Officer of Analog Devices, Inc.
While the Trump administration supports open RAN, there is some criticism of its use. The Trump administration is trying to find an alternative to Huawei as the primary supplier of 5G equipment. However, the Democratic and Republican-controlled Congress passed the open RAN policy, which the Trump administration supports. In addition to Huawei, several other companies are developing 5G networks.
While some operators are already testing Open RAN technology, others are still in the process of implementing it. In Japan, Rakuten is leading the way, while Dish is taking a greenfield approach in the U.S. Dish is using an open RAN model to build cellular networks without LTE legacy support. However, these companies are pointing to the complexity of Covid-19 as a cause for the delays.