Open RAN is expected to dramatically change the market for RAN systems by opening up competition to a wider ecosystem of vendors, including those that have only part of the solution. This opening up of the RAN is also bringing significant challenges for mobile operators that now need to work with not just one or two vendors, but a wider group of vendors that may not have verified the functionality and performance of the complete RAN solution they need. The result, which has been confirmed by a recent Heavy Reading survey, is that the overwhelming majority of carriers with mobile network businesses are looking for external guidance to help them accelerate their open RAN adoption.
Open RAN is expected to create significant opportunities for mobile operators. When asked to choose the most important business justification for open RAN, half of the respondents from the largest operators (>$5 billion) selected "faster roadmap and ability to bring in new features" or "new service and monetization opportunities." Other essential business justifications highlighted in the survey included cost savings and reducing vendor lock-in.
The benefits of open RAN in reducing vendor lock-in and creating a wider ecosystem with new opportunities for wireless technology companies are seen as increasingly important within governments around the world. Policymakers in Europe, including the UK, and North America are discussing ways to encourage telecom innovation and development, with several committing significant funds to programs that drive 5G supply chain diversification.
Guidance and a range of "off-the-shelf" solutions needed
The Heavy Reading "Accelerating Open RAN Platforms Operator Survey" published in May 2021 presents the results of an exclusive survey of individuals working for operators with mobile network businesses. As shown below, 98% of respondents said they were looking for some help in response to the question, "What do you believe will accelerate your organization's open RAN adoption most?" Almost half indicated guidance, support or expertise with interworking best practice was most important, and nearly 30% chose a range of off-the-shelf solutions. 19% thought that assistance with creating a reference blueprint of disaggregated products would help their organization's open RAN adoption most. Just 1% selected "nothing, we have what we need."
At Light Reading's "Accelerating Open RAN Platforms Operator Survey" webinar (view the archive here), Paul Rhodes, OpenRAN and 5G principal consultant at WWT EMEA, said, "If you round it up, you have got 98% saying, in one form or another, they will be looking for external guidance." Rhodes continued, "For some it is looking for a reference architecture, for some it's looking for an off-the-shelf solution, and for some it's very much a case of okay, well we kind of think we got this, but we would really appreciate 'lab as a service' to accelerate our plans."
The results of the survey highlight the need for guidance, support and example implementations showing best-of-breed solutions. The industry can deliver this support through a combination of industry groups, such as the O-RAN Alliance, carrier trials and interoperability tests. Meanwhile, solution integrators should work closely with multiple suppliers to validate open RAN solutions and support carriers with guidance, off-the-shelf solutions and lab services as needed.
Heavy Reading's Accelerating Open RAN Platforms Operator Survey focuses on why operators are deploying open RAN and which platform architectures, hardware accelerators and software and integration solutions are viewed as most important for these deployments. You can download a PDF copy here.
— Simon Stanley, Analyst at Large, Heavy Reading
This blog is sponsored by WWT. Read more from Paul Rhodes, WWT's Open RAN and 5G consultant, in "Three reasons ORAN maturity is arriving today."