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Open RAN, supported by automation and RIC, provides CSPs with new level of network flexibility

By expanding the RAN ecosystem and lowering the cost of entry, Open RAN gives CSPs more control over how they operate their networks

Even as Open RAN (O-RAN) promises to end vendor lock-in and lower deployment costs, while also increasing network flexibility and market innovation, myths around this new, open approach to the radio access network (RAN) remain. Fujitsu’s Head of Wireless business Dr. Femi Adeyemi and Head of Wireless Marketing Rob Hughes caught up with RCR Wireless News at Mobile World Congress Barcelona to dispel such myths and to further articulate how Open RAN will transform the telecom industry.

First, Adeyemi revealed that there is nothing “substandard” about Open RAN. Open RAN meets 3GPP requirements, performance and otherwise. “3GPP standard defines how much data throughput you should have. We’re meeting all of [those requirements],” he said.

Adeyemi was also quick to dismiss the idea that Open RAN is less secure, referencing the 3GPP security working groups in place for O-RAN. “We want to make sure that we’re not leaving any room for anybody to infiltrate and steal your data,” he said, “so it’s very secure.”

Further, while open networking might be new to the RAN environment, Hughes pointed out that it’s not actually a new concept in general, as optical networks, for instance, have been using open networking for quite some time.

Beyond Open RAN’s ability to hold its own when compared to traditional RAN in terms of standardization, this new approach to the RAN comes with several additional features and capabilities, and according to Hughes, every network communications service provider (CSP) stands to benefit.

“I’d like to say that [Open RAN] helps everybody,” he said, adding that the specific reasons for this might differ from one CSP to the next. “In a traditional RAN network […] once [CSPs] make their [RAN] decision, they are […] locked in, so whether they choose to prioritize high performance or low cost, they’re kind of stuck with that and don’t have the flexibility to take advantage of new innovations.”

But Open RAN changes all of this, he continued, providing the example of a CSP that has recently acquired another company and suddenly needs a multiband radio that supports an unusual combination of frequencies. In a traditional RAN set up, this CSP has a serious problem if their current vendor doesn’t supply what they need. In an Open RAN environment, the CSP is free to source the necessary component from another vendor and feel confident that it will be interoperable with the rest of the network. 

“It’s not just a question of price versus performance; it’s really now about who offers the best solution and making sure you’ve got the flexibility going forward after that initial decision,” said Hughes.

Automation is one of the biggest innovations that Open RAN brings. With automation, the time it takes to deploy the RAN goes from several weeks to a few hours. “Because as soon as you put the radio up and the associated devices below it, I can just push the software automatically into it and have that RAN [lit] up,” stated Adeyemi.

The introduction of the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) is making automation very exciting for Open RAN. With RIC, you can monitor the network in real time, dynamically adjusting and repurposing the network, said Adeyemi. He further explained that with open interfaces, new companies can become RIC providers – something that we don’t have with regular RAN.

The bottom line is that Open RAN expands the RAN ecosystem and lowers the cost of entry for new entrants, and in doing so, gives CSPs more control over and flexibility in how they operate their networks. “Choices are there,” summarized Adeyemi.

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