Open Radio Access Networks: The Building Blocks of 5G Success
How open networks can enable greater innovation, connectivity, and opportunities for companies and countries worldwide
By Sandro Tavares, Head of Mobile Networks Marketing, Nokia
As 5G deployments advance, the industry has begun to look at the potential benefits of having an expanded ecosystem of mobile access players in the market. The role of Open RAN is a central topic in this discussion. The key concept of Open RAN is using open interface specifications between network elements. Service providers, vendors as well as governments are actively engaging and working together to define the role of open standards in evolving 5G networks to enable new services and enhance overall network efficiency.
Advantages of Open RAN
An open environment expands the ecosystem, and with more vendors providing the building blocks, there is more opportunity for innovation and more options for operators. They can also add new services. For example, Artificial Intelligence can be introduced to optimize the network in the vicinity of a football stadium on a match day.
Nokia is committed to lead an open mobile future with strong network performance and security
At Nokia, openness is a part of our organizational DNA. We have a long history of collaboration in 3GPP, developing standards for all mobile technology generations, and in the last years have been very active in several open initiatives. Nokia is also the only major mobile access vendor that is a founding member of the O-RAN Alliance, endorsing the foundation of the original O-RAN consortium when it consisted of only five operators (today it has 27). In July 2020, we shared more ambitious Open RAN roadmaps and release plans, and joined the Open RAN Policy Coalition.
Specific to O-RAN, we are actively co-leading two workgroups, focusing on the open fronthaul eCPRI7.2 specification and the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) – a new network function exposing an open API to introduce programmability and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to the network. In fact, the RIC is a key building block of the O-RAN architecture and the gateway for new developers to add functionalities to the radio network.
Why will Open RAN happen?
- Operators want it – Major operators are pushing for open solutions to reap the benefits as soon as possible.
- Governments want it – Open RAN is seen as a way to introduce new suppliers to the market, and some countries are even looking at Open RAN as a mechanism to drive local 5G innovation.
- It is an opportunity to drive innovation – An Open RAN ecosystem will accelerate innovation with a wider diversity of players and open architecture. The RIC enabling AI/ML to the network is a great example of this. 5G is creating new possibilities in both evolved mobile broadband and ever better Internet-of-Things (IoT).
- Cloud computing enables Open RAN and reduces entry barriers.
Open to more
5G represents a huge opportunity to boost productivity and make economies more competitive – ever more critical considering the situation the world is in right now. Nokia is committed to delivering on 5G transformation. We are enabling a robust and secure 5G ecosystem through our investment in Open RAN and Cloud RAN.