Mavenir aims to plug open RAN’s 2G hole

Open RAN provider is now integrating 2G technology from 2020 acquisition ip.access.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

August 25, 2021

3 Min Read
Mavenir aims to plug open RAN’s 2G hole

Virtualized radio access network (RAN) proponent Mavenir has just announced the commercial readiness of a containerized GSM 2G architecture that it said paves the way for incorporating 2G into open RAN standards.

In detail, Mavenir said it has "containerized the GSM layer 1, 2 and 3 protocols of 2G in the DU microservices architecture that can be run in parallel and on the same platform with the 4G/5G network architecture."

Furthermore, the US-based supplier said it has developed an enhanced 2G interface Multi Radio Access Technology (MRAT) protocol on top of the O-RAN Alliance-based enhanced Common Public Radio Interfaces (eCPRI) interface.

2G or not 2G

Although much of the open RAN discussion tends to be focused on the disaggregation of 5G and 4G networks, the need to support 2G networks is also recognized. This is because 2G remains an integral element of many mobile operators' networks across much of the world, and looks set to hang around for some time to come.

Mavenir has previously acknowledged that it lacked 2G and 3G support in its existing broadband suite for 4G and 5G. In September 2020, it acquired UK-based ip.access, which has expertise in developing software in 2G and 3G radio stacks. Mavenir was then able to boast that its new "end-to-end cloud-native solution" now covered the complete stack of mobile technologies – from 2G through 5G – in both packet core and RAN.

Mavenir's ip.access acquisition also helped soften a competitive advantage of rival Parallel Wireless, which has always proclaimed that it is deploying open RAN across all the Gs — from 2G through to 5G.

Furthermore, Zahid Ghadialy, an analyst and executive with Parallel Wireless, wrote on his blog in 2017 that 3G will generally be switched off before 2G — "the main reason being that there are still a lot of feature phone users that rely on 2G technologies."

To be sure, 2G remains firmly in place for a number of operators across the globe. If you want to keep track, Ghadialy maintains a running tally on Twitter of the operators around the world that are shutting down – or maintaining – their 2G and 3G networks. John Strand of Strand Consult has tended to be skeptical of open RAN because he believes it does not cover 2G.

"In a simple way you can say that open RAN is not a solution for more than a billion mobile users in 2025," he said, in comments emailed to Light Reading.

This figure is based on estimates by GSMA Intelligence in its "Mobile Economy" report for 2020. For example, the report predicts that in Asia-Pacific, there will be 14% 3G phones and 7% 2G phones by 2025, totaling 21% of the market. The 2025 predictions for Europe are 7% 3G phones and 1% 2G phones in 2025, totaling 8% of the market; and for sub-Saharan Africa, 58% 3G phones and 12% 2G phones in 2025, totaling 70% of the market.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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