OpenRAN: The next generation of radio access networks

OpenRAN (Open Radio Access Network) is an alternative way of building networks where any vendor’s equipment would work on any part of the network regardless of whose core was managing the network. In a traditional RAN, hardware components and software components are tightly coupled, and interfaces do not support interoperability between different vendors. That means nearly all the equipment comes from only one supplier.

OpenRAN brings a vendor-neutral disaggregation of RAN at both the hardware and software levels. It implements an open interface between components (e.g., RU/CU/DU) using hardware- and software-defined functions.

With the virtualization that OpenRAN brings, operators can run software-based network functions on standard (COTS) servers. Open interfaces allows a new freedom – the use of one supplier’s radios with another’s processors. The flexibility of multivendor solutions enables a diverse ecosystem for operators to choose best-of-breed options for their 2G/3G/4G and 5G deployments. Solutions can be implemented on bare metal as well as on virtualized or containerized platforms.

Below are some benefits of OpenRAN

a) Open Interfaces: Open standard interfaces allow operators to implement RU-DU-CU (5G) or RU-BBU (4G/LTE) from different vendors to build a best-of-breed multi-vendor network. 

b) Disaggregation: Decoupling of hardware from software enable operators to buy RAN components individually and hence an opportunity to buy best of breed. This also helps in developing multiple deployment scenarios to cater to dynamic changes in data demand.

c) Agile Networks:  The OpenRAN software approach also provides the agility for operators to deliver faster network deployments, high throughput and there are no capacity or coverage limits. This affords MNOs the ability to meet coverage and capacity demands for end user experience.

d) Zero touch provisioning: The Zero touch model will improve operations by automating the regular functions. This further reduces the need for human capital and hence can reduce opex to a large extent. It not only helps in enhancing network simplicity but brings down the cost of managing and maintaining the network.

e) Resource pooling: Virtualization helps in the optimization of network resources by enabling resource pooling. This helps in the reduction of inventory costs with the optimization of spare resources.

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