OpenRAN promises an alternative to the legacy in the radio access network (RAN), one of the costliest parts of the infrastructure. In a traditional RAN, hardware components and software code are tightly coupled, and interfaces do not support interoperability between different vendors. That means nearly all the equipment comes from only one, closed supplier. With the virtualization that OpenRAN brings, operators can run software-based network functions on standard (COTS) servers. Open interfaces allow a new freedom – the use of one supplier’s radios with another’s processors.
OpenRAN is an alternative way of building networks that promises greater interoperability and more competition. The real reason for the incumbents’ apathy is that OpenRAN would introduce competition and threaten their existing business. As a result, there is a lot of ‘Fake News’ that needs to be addressed:
Claim #1 – MNOs will need to integrate OpenRAN solutions themselves. Since multiple vendors are required for an OpenRAN deployment, solutions are not integrated and will lead to higher costs for the operator as well as delayed time to market.
THE REALITY – Numerous OpenRAN solutions are live in MNO networks now. Multiple vendors have developed their solutions specifically to be integrated onto hardware and with other software following data center integration best practices, which are well established in the IT world. Plus, system integration can be done by vendors or operators. MNOs that have deployed OpenRAN have said integration costs are no higher than with the traditional single-vendor approach.
Claim #2 – Lower overall network performance because network elements from multiple vendors will be compromised. Disparate network elements cannot be integrated to maximize performance.
THE REALITY – Real world OpenRAN network deployments have demonstrated ability to support large subscriber bases and meet network performance KPIs. Vodafone shared KPIs from its OpenRAN deployment in Turkey that are comparable to KPIs from the legacy vendors. Software-based RAN allows for more rapid deployment of upgraded features, thereby allowing the operator to fine tune performance features for their network and roll out advanced new features like carrier-aggregation to boost performance. A DevOps approach with continuous deployment / continuous integration can push updates quickly to many different sites, all automated and orchestrated.
Claim #3 – OpenRAN is only suitable for greenfield MNO deployments because it does not integrate well with existing legacy 2G and 3G networks. The number of actual OpenRAN deployments, and therefore the scale, is limited to greenfield MNOs only.
THE REALITY – Multiple MNO deployments show that OpenRAN can support legacy technology networks as well as new 4G LTE and 5G deployments. Some of the largest MNOs are deploying OpenRAN for their running legacy architecture networks today.
Read the collaborative white paper from Mavenir, Parallel Wireless and Altiostar and published by iGR research firm to see more false claims about OpenRAN knocked down one by one.