An Open RAN conversation with Eng Wei Koo, Director of Technology, 5G Solutions, Keysight Technologies
With greenfield builds in Japan and the U.S., and a major commitment from European operators, Open RAN is poised to have a meaningful impact on the way networks are bought and built. In this Q&A, Eng Wei Koo, director of technology, 5G solutions, with Keysight Technologies, discusses current momentum and considerations for testing and integrated disaggregated radio systems.
Q: Keysight has been involved in the development of Open RAN specifications and technologies for some time. How would you characterize the current level of interest from operators?
A: “5G has really accelerated the momentum for O-RAN. There are emerging opportunities to deploy O-RAN in both greenfield and brownfield environments. When you put everything together, with a more capable 3GPP RAN architecture, and work from organizations like O-RAN Alliance…suddenly you start to see this explosion. It has been an amazing journey so far.”
Q: What challenges do you see facing Open RAN commercialization broadly and more specifically from a test and measurement point of view?
A: “Right now, the key challenges operators need to address when considering O-RAN are interoperability, ownership accountability, how to troubleshoot and isolate problems, and also how to actually manage and orchestrate all the multi-vendor virtual network functions and physical network functions on a common cloud infrastructure, which may also be multi-vendor.”
“If we look at the amount of test cases operators and network equipment manufacturers need to go through, the amount of testing required is much greater with O-RAN. With more combinations of [vendors], the cycle time for testing every software release, every regression, and implementing testing automation increases dramatically. With Keysight’s unified platform, you can orchestrate all the test cases automatically. Expertise across all O-RAN technology domains—RAN, cloud, security, transport—is critical for equipment vendors and mobile network operators to accelerate testing, integration, and optimization activities.”
Q: For operators looking at Open RAN, to some extent the opportunity and the challenge is in building and managing this multi-vendor radio stack. What other considerations are there in this shift toward network disaggregation?
A: “O-RAN makes the ecosystem a lot broader. Operators are no longer testing just one vendor against one cloud and delivering a single stack solution. What’s very unique about O-RAN is not only the multi-vendor aspects, but also dealing with the cloud.”
Q: We’ve seen ongoing enhancements of Open RAN specifications and systems in an effort to attain feature parity with what you may see with tightly integrated radio stacks. How do you see that progressing and what are your near-term expectations for Open RAN?
A: “Keysight has worked with many vendors and operators over the years. The O-RAN products designed based on the recent releases demonstrate much better stability in terms of conformance and interoperability. O-RAN products are getting to the performance and optimization stages of the product lifecycle. The O-RAN Alliance specifications are starting to mature. Moving forward, we will see a lot more operators testing these systems and moving to commercialization.”