First open RAN/vRAN installations expected to ramp up
As confidence in the readiness of the ecosystem develops, the number of service providers completing their first open RAN/virtualized RAN (vRAN) installations is growing quickly. vRAN allows service providers to disaggregate the software and hardware in their wireless infrastructure and benefit from the use of virtualized network functions and generic server hardware. By deploying open RAN architectures and platforms, service providers have the option to source elements of the solution from multiple suppliers rather than from a single incumbent supplier.
To find out more from service providers about how they plan to deploy open RAN and vRAN platforms and architectures for 5G networks, Heavy Reading ran an exclusive survey of individuals working for operators with mobile network businesses. The results are presented in an analyst report, Open RAN Platforms and Architectures Operator Survey Report, that can be downloaded for free here.
A total of 113 individuals working for operators with mobile network businesses gave responses to the survey. When asked when they believe the open RAN/vRAN ecosystem will be ready for mass deployment, 19% said it was ready now, and a further 19% said it would be ready during the next 12 months. Overall, more than 70% said that they believe the open RAN / vRAN ecosystem will be ready for mass deployment within the next two years.
These results suggest that some service providers believe the ecosystem is already mature enough for them to go ahead with first installations. However, others are waiting for further developments that will improve open RAN/vRAN performance and enable a wider choice of suppliers.
Europe is moving ahead, and North America is expected to catch up within 24 months
This confidence in the readiness of the ecosystem was also reflected in answers to a question about first open RAN/vRAN installations. As shown below, 15% of all respondents said they had already completed their first open RAN/vRAN installations. A further 30% said they are planning to complete their first open RAN/vRAN installations within the next 12 months, and another 30% within 12–24 months. So, in total, 75% expect to have completed their first open RAN/vRAN installations within two years.
The combination of growing confidence in the readiness of the ecosystem and the growing number of operators deploying their first open RAN/vRAN installations indicates that the technology is working and that operators believe this approach is worth investing in for future deployments. These results are in line with market feedback from both operators and hardware and software suppliers. Although further interoperability testing and optimizations for cost and power are needed, open RAN/vRAN solutions are expected to be significantly more attractive than less flexible alternatives within 24 months.
When these results are split separately for North America and Europe, there are some significant regional differences. The results suggest that North America is initially moving slower to complete first open RAN/vRAN installations than Europe but will catch up by the end of 2024.
For Europe, 23% of respondents said they had already completed their first open RAN/vRAN installations, versus just 8% for North America. For first installations completed by the end of 2023, the results are 53% for Europe and 36% for North America. For both Europe and North America, approximately 75% expect to have completed their first open RAN/vRAN installations within two years.
Heavy Reading's Open RAN Platforms and Architectures Operator Survey Report 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.
This blog is sponsored by AMD.