Open RAN nowhere near ready for prime time – report

New study by CCS Insight, sponsored by InterDigital, says nascent tech may well have to wait until 6G for 'lead role.'

Ken Wieland, contributing editor

November 5, 2021

3 Min Read
Open RAN nowhere near ready for prime time – report

A new report by CCS Insight, sponsored by InterDigital, gives a downbeat assessment of open RAN's chances of making a big industry impact in the near to medium term.

The report's conclusion is hardly a surprise given its title – "Open RAN: the long journey from supporting act to lead role" – but will probably jar with fervent open RAN enthusiasts.

"Open RAN remains at an early stage of development and, given the time needed to evolve into a more integrated ecosystem of solutions, will probably play no more than a supporting role in global 5G deployments," said Kester Mann, director of consumer and connectivity at CCS Insight and the report's author.

Figure 1:

Looking further forward, however, Mann is more optimistic. The "6G era," he reckons, which starts around 2030 according to industry consensus, "could see most carriers deploy the technology as a default option."

"Open RAN presents an opportunity to evolve and disrupt the vendor ecosystem, bringing fresh choice for operators and supporting the emergence of a host of new companies," said Mann in prepared remarks.

"Yet the path ahead will not be entirely smooth; the technology is unproven at scale and there are questions over interoperability, pricing and security. Momentum is undeniable, but it may be several years before we see a tangible impact on the market."

That's not to say CCS Insight doesn't see some nearer-term open RAN opportunities in 5G, but the report suggests these will be niche and limited, such as private or neutral host networks.

Moreover, given what Mann sees as "limited opportunities" for new market entrants to emulate high-profile greenfield open RAN networks from Rakuten Mobile and Dish Network, he thinks this "could restrict the potential of Rakuten's ground-breaking RCP platform."

Trad vendors moving at different speeds

Among incumbent suppliers, CCS Insight views Nokia as the "most enthusiastic and active supporter of Open RAN." Under the leadership of new CEO Pekka Lundmark, Mann thinks Nokia is starting to grab the open RAN bull by the horns.

Want to know more about open RAN? Check out our dedicated open RAN channel here on Light Reading.

"[Nokia sees] an opportunity to disrupt the market and threaten larger rivals Ericsson and Huawei by migrating its RAN portfolios from highly aggregated and optimized single-vendor systems to including more modular, open platforms," said Mann. Ericsson, on the other hand, has been "a more reluctant mover" in CCS Insight's opinion.

It is Huawei, however, which Mann finds as "the most pessimistic of the main players." He adds that this is because the Chinese supplier has the "most to lose" if open RAN is a long-term success, and so has "continually downplayed the technology's potential."

Related posts:

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Ken Wieland

contributing editor

Ken Wieland has been a telecoms journalist and editor for more than 15 years. That includes an eight-year stint as editor of Telecommunications magazine (international edition), three years as editor of Asian Communications, and nearly two years at Informa Telecoms & Media, specialising in mobile broadband. As a freelance telecoms writer Ken has written various industry reports for The Economist Group.

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

You May Also Like