RAN Management and Orchestration Is Central to Operators Gaining Control Over Their Own Networks

The promise of Open vRAN is to give back to mobile operators some form of control over their networks.

July 6, 2021

4 Min Read
RAN Management and Orchestration Is Central to Operators Gaining Control Over Their Own Networks

The promise of Open vRAN is to give back to mobile operators some form of control over their networks. The “open” refers to the opening of RAN interfaces. It is critical because it gives operators the possibility to buy the radio unit and the baseband unit from different vendors, rather than having to buy an integrated system, and therefore helps them diversify their suppliers and reduce their dependence on traditional vendors. The “v” refers to virtual. Virtualization is about disaggregating hardware and software and enabling the use of commercial off-the-shelf servers, instead of the usual purpose-built hardware, to run network functions in order to increase flexibility and reduce costs.

Across Asia-Pacific, the announcements and activities from operators including Airtel, Axiata, NTT Docomo, Rakuten Mobile, Smartfren and Telkomsel indicate a growing appetite for open and virtualized radio access networks. In countries like India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, open RAN can for example help to address the challenges of remote connectivity and to deploy a network in places where it has been traditionally difficult to achieve a satisfactory return on investment.

Both opening interfaces and virtualizing the RAN are critical to empowering mobile operators’ networks. However, introducing new vendors and architectures, combined with the need to ensure interoperability between the different hardware and software elements, creates new operational complexity for operators.

In the meantime, the vision of 5G supporting all types of services from enhanced mobile broadband to ultra-reliable and low latency critical use cases, if realized, will also result in additional complexity. This complexity comes from increasingly sophisticated and tailored network parameters and configurations necessary to meet those use case requirements. Further ratcheting up the complexity comes from more frequent software upgrades encouraged by the adoption of cloud-native methodologies from the IT world like Continuous Integration/Continuous Development (CI/CD) in the telecom world.

In this context, it will be unrealistic to continue operating networks in the same way as before, and to rely on operators’ staff (or vendors’ staff if the task has been outsourced) to manually re-configure the mobile networks every time needed. To build future-proof networks, operators therefore need to modernize the management and orchestration domain and implement further automation.

However, automation and openness can sometimes be contradictory. It is indeed often easier to automate in a closed environment than it is in an open environment with inputs from various parties and constant changes. This is one of the challenges that vendors are trying to tackle.

Many operators want to be able to deploy, configure and optimize their network themselves – rather than having to rely too heavily on their vendors– and naturally do so without any impact on the quality of service. They are also asking for more control over the tools used for these tasks. This is why management and orchestration solutions should not be “black boxes” but instead open, easy-to-use, self-service tools.

To be useful and efficient in multi-vendor environments, those tools should have access to data collected from different vendors equipment and be capable to amalgamate and utilize such data for decisions. One key requirement is therefore the possibility to collect, harmonize, analyze, and exploit RAN-generated data in different shapes and format.

Cellwize’s CHIME platform provides features and capabilities for operators to collect and manage this data. The platform acts as a centralized data layer combining configuration and performance data from different RAN vendors as well as external sources such as RF planning tools. It processes the data using machine learning algorithms and then coordinates with existing OSS and management systems to take and implement optimization decisions.

Figure 1: An overview of Cellwize's CHIME platform

In June 2021, Cellwize announced a partnership with Intel for the CHIME platform to be supported on Intel Xeon processors and Intel FlexRAN reference software. Specifically, this should enable operators using the solution to accelerate vRAN deployment and reduce site configuration and activation related operating expenditures. Given Intel’s current leadership in vRAN, it represents an opportunity for Cellwize to further grow its reach.

To learn more about this topic and Cellwize solutions, you can download Cellwize RAN democratization whitepaper.

— Rémy Pascal, Principal Analyst, Mobile infrastructure, Omdia

This blog is sponsored by Cellwize.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like