Home5G & BeyondA myriad of good reasons to transition to Open RAN

    A myriad of good reasons to transition to Open RAN


    Sponsored: A Distributed RAN enables future 5G success

    By Nicola Marziliano, VP Global Telco Sales, Wind River

    The promise of 5G networks bring both immense opportunity but also incredible challenges. They must deliver on extremely low latency, high availability, security, and flexibility. They must also rely on distributed cloud architecture to be robust, resilient, and flexible across a multi-node, geo-distributed landscape.

    A cloud-based approach to 5G RAN is key to enabling lowest total cost of ownership for service providers, but then also enabling the deployment of new revenue generating applications on that cloudified infrastructure. This is a key differentiator of Open RAN, as a virtualized framework it enables operators to have a fully cloudified network allowing rapid service deployment and revenue generation once 5G is deployed.

    It is clear that Open RAN creates great potential for carriers who invest in the appropriate technologies and capabilities now. 

    The transition to Open RAN should also shorten the time to launch new services, improve scalability and elasticity, support new enterprise revenues, and improve the economic analysis for mobile edge services. There are also ecosystem gains, such as faster innovation, sustainable networks, and a diversified supply chain. 

    Assessing the Total Cost of Ownership

    A recent Analysys Mason study looked at three different scenarios for Open RAN architecture. Two examples (distributed and centralized vCU) represent what is used today, and one (vDU/vCU pooling) that is likely to become more common as the edge grows. These three options were modeled for three different operator profiles, including a Tier 1 operator in Western Europe, a mid-sized incumbent operator in a developed market, and a Tier 1 operator in an emerging market. 

    Over a three-year time horizon, total cost of ownership savings are expected to range from 13% to 30% for all architectures and profiles – provided the infrastructure includes some key components.. Over a six-year time horizon, savings increase to 35%.

    Pillars of success

    The above results do not come without a proper due diligence and network design and solution. In the Analysys Mason study, the following variables were considered: RAN hardware and software, backhaul, vendor support and maintenance, additional RTD costs, power and rack space costs. Beyond the basic assumptions and costs, the study found that Open RAN can only succeed if it encompasses these three fundamental pillars:

    1. A high-performance, secure Kubernetes-based O-cloud infrastructure that supports the following: 
    • The high processing requirements of 5G RAN real-time functions as well as advanced technologies such as MIMO. Optimization of the number of servers and power consumption to reduce deployment and scaling costs of distributed hardware. Centralized and distributed RAN architecture. 
    • Running decomposed, cloud-native microservices on a bare metal infrastructure.
    • Time synchronization and heterogeneous architecture with multiple gas pedals while maintaining openness and programmability.
    • Cloud-native networking capabilities (Open RAN and others) from multiple vendors, as well as other business and consumer service applications.
    • A high level of security and reliability to host all network functions and applications with strict isolation between them.
    • Distributed orchestration and zero-touch automation 
    • Open RAN requires non-contact automation and orchestration that covers the entire lifecycle, including Day 0 deployment (automated remote software installation), Day 1 (operations preparation, testing, and validations), and Day 2+ ongoing live operations (self-repair, self-optimization, updates, and upgrades with CI/CD). 
    • A pre-validated ecosystem 
    • A pre-validated ecosystem of Open RAN vendors that can provide a complete, open, standards-based stack to reduce integration costs and test/deployment time. This covering both Cloud Infrastructure HW as well as RAN workloads, Integrators and Radio Head suppliers. 

    Attempting to deploy Open RAN with anything less than the aforementioned would result in much smaller TCO reductions and could even result in cost increases.

    A promising future

    Once the infrastructure is in place, costs are expected to drop further during the course of next 2-3 years, which emphasizes the need of starting now with the right components. 

    Open RAN RU and antenna reference designs will lead to standardization and commoditization which will lower costs for these components. 

    Chipset innovations could lead to new server form factors with lower costs and higher productivity. Next-generation CPUs are also expected to reduce the number of physical cores required to run the cloud native functions of vDUs and vCUs and the O-cloud platform, which would reduce the number of servers and/or increase resources for other applications.

    A proven and leading solution

    Wind River is the leading provider of software infrastructure solutions for Open RAN and vRAN. It offers mature, out-of-the-box offerings based on proven Wind River Studio technology already deployed with leading network operators. 

    Wind River Studio includes a commercial version of the open source StarlingX project, which is the O-cloud infrastructure reference for the entire O-RAN. Here are a few examples of 5G deployments using Wind River Studio around the globe:

    • Verizon is using Studio’s cloud native infrastructure and analytics for its 5G vRAN deployment. 
    • Vodafone selected Studio for the first commercial Open-RAN network in Europe for management of containerized Open RAN CU/DU workloads, automation, orchestration, and lifecycle management of network functions.
    • Wind River partnered with Elisa to build Europe’s first distributed and fully automated far edge cloud for 5G. 
    • KDDI has chosen Wind River Studio for its O-RAN compliant virtualized base stations for its commercial network. 

    A leader in the 5G landscape, Wind River is delivering mature, cloud-native production-ready offerings based on proven Wind River Studio technology that is live in deployment with Tier 1 operators. Wind River is helping to further advance Open RAN which will create tremendous opportunities to reduce costs and generate new revenue. Given its many benefits, Open RAN is worth adopting.