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FAQ: How Can Open RAN Drive Efficiency, Enable Agility and Enhance 5G Adoption?

How does Open RAN reduce operating expenses? Will Open RAN change the role of the network operator? Will Open RAN evolve into an as-a-service model? All these questions and more answered.

May 20, 2020 7 minute read

The economics of 5G are forcing network operators to deploy virtualized, multi-vendor solutions that can scale to help optimize infrastructure investments. 

Such disaggregation has made its way all the way to operators’ Radio Access Network with Open RAN — a virtualized RAN on general-purpose hardware that replaces legacy, single-vendor RAN solutions with stable, scalable and 5G-ready architectures.

Naturally, service providers have questions. Can Open RAN really save opex? How can Open RAN be deployed from a brownfield and greenfield perspective? Will architectures be vertical or application specific? 

Those questions and more were asked during a recent Light Reading webinar with WWT. Key topics discussed in the webinar include how Open RAN can:

  • Deliver secure end-to-end 4G/5G solutions and services to service providers.
  • Maximize ROI on existing network infrastructure.
  • Enable a new ecosystem of vendors, leveraging a cloud-based architecture.
  • Future-proof architecture that creates a streamlined transition path to 5G.
Miss the Light Reading Open RAN Webinar? Watch the Recording

To better inform the broader service provider industry, we thought it would be beneficial to share those questions along with our answers here. 

If you have a question of your own regarding Open RAN or how service providers can modernize their networks to deliver 5G services to end customers, please contact us and we will be sure to add questions to this list as appropriate.

Open RAN FAQ

Q: How do you envision Open RAN changing the role of the Communications Service Provider (CSP)?

A: Open RAN is operator driven and enables CSPs to drive their own network, including putting together best-of-breed networks. System integrators play a key role in validating and managing the multi-vendor solutions that will help CSPs optimize cost and shrink the time it takes to bring solutions to market.

Q: How exactly will Open RAN reduce operating expenses? 

A: Networks are becoming increasingly complex. The self-driving nature of Open RAN will be able to leverage new learning-based technologies that automate operational network functions and reduce operational expenditures (opex). 

In combination with Open RAN’s open interfaces, AI-optimized closed-loop automation will be achievable and will enable a new era for network operations. Open interfaces are essential to enabling small vendors or operators to quickly introduce their own services. They also enable operators to customize the network to suit their own unique needs. 

All these aspects of O-RAN can reduce operating expenses.

Q: As the RAN is decomposed and disaggregated, do you foresee a multi-vendor RAN that is unique to the key applications or vertical it serves?

A: One of the benefits of Open RAN is achieving a best-of-breed multi-vendor network that enables operators to bring innovative solutions specific to different industry verticals from RAN vendors, third parties and their own R&D teams. So yes, Open RAN will usher in unique multi-vendor architectures tailored to meet the needs of specific applications of industries.

Q: Do you see Open RAN evolving into RAN-as-a-service that utilizes industry-leading cloud platforms? 

A: The RAN is evolving to a RAN-as-a-service model deployed on different kinds of cloud platforms. The Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) are already being delivered as a cloud-based service. Different components of the RAN are being developed as cloud-native containerized services, which facilitates RAN-as-a-service deployments.

Q: How do you see Open RAN evolving for in-building use? How can it enable localized neutral-host networks?

A: Open RAN is applicable to multiple use cases including in-building solutions. In the case of in-building or venue use cases, open RAN plays a key role in enabling neutral host solutions that are less cumbersome, less expensive and easier to manage. This is because openness makes sharing the multiple layers of the network by multiple operators easier.

Q: How can we ensure interoperability of the various vendor solutions? Will there be a certification or common labs for mobile operators?

A: System integrators like WWT provide a lab environment to validate multi-vendor solutions. WWT works with multiple vendors to certify such mix-and-match solutions and makes lab environments available directly for service providers. This enables service providers to validate and test their own custom configurations.

Q: There are some concerns the shift towards Open RAN with multiple RAN DU, CU, hardware and software vendors could result in higher integration costs. Is this a valid concern?

A: This is an area where system integrators like WWT can play a significant role. System integrators can drive interoperability testing and validation. Integrators that are experienced and focused on this can help manage integration costs and bring new innovations to market quicker.

Q: What is the relationship between open vRAN and general processing hardware such as CPU or GPU?

A: Open RAN aims to bring cloud-scale economics to the RAN. One of the enablers for this is being able to use off-the-shelf hardware with CPU and GPU that result in a network that meets industry reliability and availability standards in a cost-efficient manner.

Q: Tier 1 operators are evaluating Open RAN in low average revenue per user (ARPU) parts of the network. How does a brownfield operator enter ORAN?

A: Today's Open RAN networks deliver capacity, reliability and availability that meet industry standards. This means Open RAN can be evaluated and deployed in multiple parts of the network. Different operators will follow different adoption paths based on their business needs.

Q: How can a service provider closely tied with OEMs and their own engineering take advantage of the reference architecture and adjust to align with their own unique requirements?

A: New technologies like 5G present a great opportunity for operators to consider and adopt Open RAN solutions that will help them bring new technologies to market faster and reduce capex and open costs.

Q: What other advantages does Open RAN present to operators? 

A: Operators can also take advantage of upgrading aging proprietary boxes. Instead of updating a proprietary box that is at end of life with a new proprietary box, operators can opt for an Open RAN solution. Operators can then leverage their own engineers that know the details of their market well with the help of system integrators to facilitate their transition to open RAN.

Q: Do you believe mobile network operators (MNO) will be willing to take on the risk and responsibility of deploying Open RAN and the operational complexity it could bring?

A: The traditional monolithic RAN solution approach no longer meets today's quickly evolving network requirements. These requirements are driven by the need to bring solutions to market quickly, cost efficiently and with minimal hardware swaps. MNO decision makers are increasingly looking at Open RAN to address these needs and stay competitive.

Q: Without fiber transport, what is the base of transport network (MH)? How does it keep transport network throughput and latency?

A: Alternative transport network options like Microwave can be used. The transport network will have to be dimensioned and configured to meet the end-to-end performance requirements.

Q: How will the profit pool be shared by players in the Open RAN ecosystem?

A: The Open RAN ecosystem creates partnerships between system integrators, OEMs and operators with a common goal of getting new technologies to market in a cost-efficient manner. This approach creates business opportunities to all stakeholders including small innovative startup companies.

Q: What is the difference in scope and purpose between the Open RAN Policy Coalition and the O-RAN Alliance? 

A: The Open RAN Policy Coalition was formed to advocate for government policies supporting the development and adoption of open and interoperable solutions in the Radio Access Network (RAN). WWT is uniquely positioned as the only system integrator that is part of the coalition. The O-RAN Alliance was founded by operators to clearly define requirements and help build a supply chain eco-system to realize the benefits of open RAN by bringing openness and intelligence to the radio network.

Fully-integrated, cloud-based virtualized RAN to accelerate 4G and set the stage for 5G.
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