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Highlight on Ongoing Open RAN Deployments

telecom towers 

Open RAN has brought a lot of excitement in telecom and technology space by disaggregating RAN software from purpose-built hardware to run on COTS hardware systems. This movement cause mobile RAN market to expand from few solution vendors to many new and established software solution vendors. Adding to this fact, telecom operators can now take strategic actions to save expenditure on infrastructure and operations by evaluating RAN solutions from different vendors and integrate altogether.

Operators can also gain more benefits from: 1. cloud-native RAN architecture that includes RAN functions are deployed within microservices to take benefits of DevOps principles and 2. end-to-end lifecycle management of RAN services across different cloud infrastructure.

Considering of all the benefits of Open RAN, many telecom operators have geared and have done significant work in bringing it in the network. Let us understand the current deployments by leading operators.

Rakuten is a key leader in utilizing Open RAN into the network and known to be a sponsor. Rakuten has proved that it is possible to build the fully virtualized greenfield telecom network that involves Open RAN technologies and cloud-native architecture that further help them to hit the network savings at 40% on CAPEX and 30% on OPEX. In April 2020, Rakuten is noted as world's largest vRAN network covering 4,000+ cell sites. Airspan, Altiostar, Cisco, Intel, Mavenir, NEC, Nokia, Red Hat, and Qualcomm were the software, services, and equipment providers to build the 5G network. Rakuten is the member of TIP since November 2019. Few months back Rakuten joined hand with O-RAN alliance. Earlier, they build the Open RAN network which is said to be the first real-world implementation of Open RAN. Now after joining hands with O-RAN they will be making a move to become compliant with O-RAN by doing a software upgrade of RAN stack. Tareq Amin, Executive Vice President and CTO of Rakuten Mobile said in the press release that "As a member of the O-RAN ALLIANCE, we will leverage the experience gained from the development of our open, virtualized network in Japan to contribute to the creation of a fully open standard for RAN for the world." Further Rakuten will contribute to the technical development of innovative, open and intelligent RAN.

The four major European telecom operators like Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone Group came together with the aim to support the rollout of Open RAN. The four have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together to implement and deploy the Open RAN solutions in their network. They are engaged with the open communities like O-RAN alliance and Telecom Infra Project (TIP) to quickly roll out the Open RAN complying to appropriate standards. This engagement will help them to make most of virtualized and cloud-native architecture to deliver more agile and flexible mobile networks. Further, this collaboration will help create interoperable Open RAN market in Europe to boost the 5G dream.

Vodafone is actively deploying Open RAN trials in countries like Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Mozambique. They are taking help from Parallel Wireless for RAN deployments. Vodafone UK are in process to deploy 2600 test sites with the support from Mavenir. Telefonica is also running considerable number of projects in telecom industry and actively engaged with TIP for most of the projects.

In the U.S., AT&T, T-Mobile US, Verizon and UScellular participated in Open RAN movement with O-RAN alliance membership. Out of which, T-Mobile is only telecom operator who is part of Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

Dish Network partnered with independent RAN solutions vendors like AltioStar & Mavenir, and Fujitsu who will provide Open RAN software and Radio Units (RUs). Apart from Open RAN software Mavenir is providing cloud-native Open RAN software and RCS Business Messaging product which will help monetize wireless assets by enabling advanced voice and multimedia messaging such as cloud-native video, voice over Wi-Fi and Voice over LTE (VoWiFi and VoLTE). Intel is providing their FlexRAN reference architecture and its chips for their hardware partners.

NTT DoCoMo has worked with Fujitsu, NEC and Nokia on multivendor interoperability for its 4G and 5G base station using O-RAN Alliance specifications. NTT DoCoMo leveraging O-RAN fronthaul specifications & O-RAN X2 profile specification to connect remote radio units with centralized baseband units, and the O-RAN X2 profile specification to connect between 4G base stations and 5G base stations from different vendors.

In Indian Bharti Airtel is collaborated with Altiostar to deploy vRAN in few cities and undergoing trials. Reliance Jio is built and tested 5G RAN product with the help of Qualcomm. And further will work on disaggregated solution for Open RAN.

RAN Solution Vendors

Currently, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Altiostar, Samsung, Ericsson, Radisys, Nokia, Intel, Casa Systems, Airspan networks and ASOCS are leading vendors who are offering RAN solutions to all the telecom operators globally. Apart from leading RAN vendors JMA Wireless is emerging challenger who helped Telecom Italia for installation of their virtualized RAN software and actively innovating their RAN product lines. Qualcomm is partnered with Dish network, AT&T, Verizon and other U.S. based telcos to test open and virtualized 5G RAN technology.

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About the Author

Sagar Nangare, Digital Strategist / Assistant Manager, Marketing at Calsoft Inc.

Photo by Troy Squillaci from Pexels 

Published Thursday, March 11, 2021 7:45 AM by David Marshall
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