Open Radio Access Network has been gaining momentum in recent years as a way to promote competition and innovation in the telecommunications industry. The Open RAN technology approach aims at making the industry more open and inclusive for operators by breaking down the traditional vendor lock-in and promoting interoperability and innovation. According to Market Research, the global Open RAN market size is projected to grow to $15.6 billion by 2027.
In enabling service providers to use open source subcomponents from a variety of vendors, operators can have more options, freedom and flexibility in developing and maintaining their networks. In this article, we will explore the benefits of Open RAN and why it is becoming an increasingly important concept in the telecommunications industry.
Top advantages of Open RAN
Increased competition and innovation
Currently, a few suppliers have monopolized the telecom market, limiting its diversity and competition among vendors. One of the main benefits of Open RAN is that it promotes increased competition and innovation in the industry by removing this vendor lock-in to allow multiple vendors to offer their solutions.
The Open RAN approach would be able to break the monopoly by separating the radio access network elements into different functional components and promoting their standardization. This would allow different vendors to offer their solutions and promote diversity in the market. As a result, telecom operators would no longer be limited to the offerings of a single vendor, as they would be able to choose the best solution for their needs from a larger range of options.
This would lead to competition between vendors for business, which could drive down the cost of network deployment and maintenance. Additionally, Open RAN adaptation encourages smaller companies and start-ups to enter the market, bringing new ideas and innovative technologies to light and creating a more level playing field for all players.
Improved network performance
Open RAN has the potential to improve network performance and provide better coverage. By allowing operators to choose from a wide range of options to find the best solution for their needs, Open RAN enables them to build networks that are more attuned to their specific requirements.
For instance, operators in rural areas would be able to choose solutions that are specifically designed to provide coverage in these areas, while operators in urban areas can choose solutions that are optimized for high-density deployments. Additionally, Open RAN enables operators to easily upgrade their networks as more new technologies become available on the market, allowing improved network performance and coverage over time.
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By promoting interoperability, Open RAN would also increase the flexibility of operators in building and maintaining their networks. Open RAN would open up the market to new vendors and new offerings, making it easier for operators to mix and match components from different vendors.
This flexibility could allow them to build more optimized networks and would help operators to adapt to changes in the market, such as new technologies, changing customer needs and regulatory changes. Additionally, this facet of Open RAN enables operators to easily scale, upgrade and maintain their networks, which would reduce the time and cost associated with these processes.
Improved system integration
Another great aspect of Open RAN is its potential to greatly improve system integration in wireless network infrastructure. The software-defined architecture of Open RAN enables network operators to manage the integration of different components through a unified and centralized interface, reducing the complexity and cost of integration. This can also result in faster time to market for new services and increased innovation as network operators are not limited by proprietary solutions.
According to a white paper published by Vodafone describing their Open RAN future system integration model, system integration through Open RAN would bring additional improvements in costs, timing and flexibility.
The white paper discussed a distributed system integration model of a coordinated multivendor lab network. The findings suggested that moving from a centralized system integration lab to a distributed one would result in an estimated 40% reduction in investment required by vendors. This is thanks to automation, remote integration and reduced delivery times in lab testing.
Open RAN also has the potential to promote rural and urban connectivity, providing a more cost-effective and scalable solution for operators looking to deploy networks in these areas.
By allowing operators to choose the best solution for their needs, Open RAN enables them to build networks that are better optimized for the specific requirements of rural areas, such as limited infrastructure and lower population densities.
Additionally, Rakuten Symphony deployed Open RAN coverage with over 300,000 cells as of January 2023 powered by Symworld. Their efforts displayed Open RAN’s ability to provide high-density coverage in urban areas. The cells were deployed while maintaining an operational headcount of just 250 people, demonstrating Open RAN as a cost-effective way to expand network coverage.
Improved power management
The Open RAN approach utilizes open and interoperable software and hardware components and can greatly improve power management for network infrastructure. By allowing network operators to access components from different vendors and optimize their deployment for specific use cases, Open RAN would enable operators to use low-power and energy-efficient components. Access to these components can result in networks with reduced power consumption and lower operational costs.
Additionally, Open RAN’s software-defined architecture would provide network operators control over the power usage of different network components. They could manage these components based on factors like usage patterns and real-time network traffic, resulting in more efficient use of network resources, which could help reduce energy consumption and costs.
Vodafone has worked with partners on a standardized method for measuring the energy consumption of Open RAN. Through a collaboration with Intel, Wind River, Keysight Technologies and Radisys, Vodafone demonstrated the use of P-states to show a reduction in power consumption of an OpenRAN infrastructure by 9% and 12% during high and low mobile traffic peak scenarios.
The future of Open RAN
It will be exciting to see Open RAN’s adoption into the telecommunications industry, as it offers numerous benefits for network operators and vendors alike.
As the industry continues to evolve, Open RAN has the potential to play a significant role in shaping the future of telecommunications, providing operators with more choice and flexibility in building and maintaining their networks while also promoting a more open and inclusive industry that fosters innovation and competition. The widespread adoption of Open RAN could lead to lower costs, better network performance and increased access to high-quality telecommunications services for people all over the world.
For more insight on this theme, read about a group of major operators and technology companies that met in Spain to discuss the challenges and opportunities of Open RAN in the future of connectivity.