The future of the RAN is open

The future of the RAN is open. An open RAN is more than Open RAN, and benefits all operators and the entire RAN ecosystem, even those who are still on the sidelines. Openness in the RAN starts with open interfaces and disaggregation but goes beyond this. 

An open RAN has to be an energy-efficient RAN.

Energy efficiency has become a key requirement for new RAN deployments. Opening the RAN cannot be done by sacrificing sustainability. On the contrary, energy efficiency has to continue to improve as the RAN becomes more automated, disaggregated and virtualized.  We looked at energy efficiency in Open RAN in the context of wireless networks in the report “Energy efficiency in wireless: RAN and beyond” on how sustainability is an opportunity to decrease costs without compromising network performance. See also “Is Open RAN more energy efficient than traditional RAN?”, “Energy efficiency in 6G”, and “Will Open RAN increase power efficiency in the RAN?” a Sparring Partners with Deutsche Telekom 

Open RAN needs a new ecosystem. It is here.

Read our Deep Dive report The Open RAN ecosystem gathers steam. The future RAN is open” where we tried to address many of the outstanding questions, with the help of eleven vendors and operators: NEC, Vodafone, Ciena, Analog, Fujitsu, Rakuten Symphony, Picocom, Dish, Verizon, TIP, and Radisys. You can get the report for free, and read or watch the conversations here

Is there a business model?

We also looked at the topology and deployment options that optimize the TCO. There is no single path to Open RAN. How can operators pick the one that optimizes their TCO? Each operator has different spectrum assets, demand distribution, transport and site costs, and technology strategies, and these are crucial factors in choosing the path to Open RAN that leads to the largest cost savings.

We built a detailed TCO model to explore different scenarios that mobile operators may face and published two papers to present some of our analysis. 

The first paper, “Which Open RAN is best for you? TCO tradeoffs: transport versus location”, looks at the impact of transport costs in choosing the RAN topology. Should an operator put the DU at the cell site, in a data center at the edge, or in a centralized location with the CU? If the operator has high transport costs, it is more cost effective to deploy the DU at the cell site. As transport costs go down, a centralized DU becomes the best option.

In the second paper, “What’s the best way to get to Open RAN? Optimizing pooling gains can reduce TCO by up to 42%”, we went one step further to see how operators facing different transport costs can maximize pooling gains for different 5G cell profiles. There are pooling gains for operators that deploy DUs at the cell site, and for those that co-locate DUs and CUs in remote data centers, but they come from different sources. 

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