Home5G & BeyondOpen RAN could be lowest common denominator without fresh competitors warns BT...

    Open RAN could be lowest common denominator without fresh competitors warns BT strategy supremo

    Open RAN has potential but it's not the only game changer in town says BT's chief architect Neil McCrae


    Mobile operators should hold their nerve in the face of high-pressure sales tactics from technology suppliers and cloud operators offering instant gratification, according to Neil McCrae, BT’s MD of Architecture and Strategy. 

    McCrae has previously issued warnings about the loss of control associated with rushing headlong into the cloud. Speaking as an expert witness, he is presenting the other side of the argument at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

    BT itself will be testing Open RAN small cells for private networks and for macro augmentation, after conducting its own Open RAN trials in January. “We see huge opportunity to deploy small cells in a way that gives the customer experience a huge boost,” said McCrae, ahead of the event.

    However, Open RAN will make negligible difference to the price of networks, McCrae warned, and the strategy will only deliver its benefits if there are more competitors. “We need more underlying component providers for the prices to really change,” McCrae told Mobile World magazine, citing BT’s own research. 

    While Open RAN is crucial for creating a scalable, multi-vendor networks, operators still have technology options to exercise. Before any chief technology officer makes a career-affecting long-term decision on behalf of their telco, they need to be convinced that Open RAN is mature enough. It still has to make the grade in terms of cost, capability and sustainability.

    McRae said the controller element has strong potential to give operators new opportunities for radio optimisation. This would be a green light for new applications and better customer experiences.

    Multi-vendor environments still have questionable cohesion, with machines often greeting each other at the lowest common denominator while conversations between proprietary kit are much faster and more articulate. The taboo issue in the Open RAN industry is that it needs much tighter integration than is currently available. “Open RAN is really defining the interface, but the components are still for the most part proprietary,” said McCrae.