Review: What Has Been Achieved in 2020

2020 was a momentous year for Open RAN, as its concept came to gain credibility despite the market’s previously doubtful attitude toward this new mobile network framework; following which, the leading industry organization, the O-RAN Alliance, has had several building blocks built in place, with:

  • The Open RAN pioneers having added small cells and radios to their existing networks
  • The established vendors expanding their solutions with open/virtual elements by incorporating the fundamentals of open interfaces and network virtualization.
  • The supply chain ecosystem ready for fostering existing and new vendors
  • More trials and proof of concept deployments done or ongoing to make disaggregated RAN deployments easier to achieve

What set a significant step forward in the commercial Open RAN advancement was that, after the O-RAN Alliance signed KDDI, Rakuten, and Vodafone to its board, Rakuten Mobile, Inc. announced its success in the commercial-scale 5G Open RAN deployments, proving to the world that the 5G network performance and stability can work in densely populated environments and offer new levels of automation, virtualization, and performance to the network.

In the meantime, other influential bodies with membership consisting of operators, equipment manufacturers, and silicon manufactures are working together to create ideal environments required by an Open RAN supplier ecosystem to thrive. Apparently, even though vendors commit their efforts to different levels/types of support due to their portfolios and business strategies, they are taking a more active role in addressing integration considerations through partnerships or developing their resources for multi-vendor integration.

2020 was also the year when misconceptions and doubts about Open RAN were changed, through the collective work of operators and vendors. It is now commonly agreed upon by each member in this industry, that Open RAN is the main topic in 2021 and years to come, as the Open RAN architecture serves as a way for more open, secure and enhanced interfaces. With what was achieved in 2020, here comes a question: will the initial enthusiasm and momentum continue to build and eventually make Open RAN the leading architecture option for the providers, or will Open RAN become a supporting role in the future networks?

Open RAN Trend Predictions in 2021

Open RAN has seen great strides in 2020, and this trend is even fuelled by recent bans on Chinese suppliers, encouraging mobile operators (particularly in those protected areas) to open up their networks to Open RAN faster in 2021. Below are five Open RAN trends that the industry can predict for 2021, and it is without question Open RAN is the theme of telecom 2021:

Expanded Ecosystem, New Breed of Integrators and Hosts

To fulfill Open RAN deployment requirements and market demands, more new players including software and hardware vendors will jump in to define future RAN business and deployment models; these players will be well versed, robust, innovative, and most important of all, keen to build close partnerships with different roles in this ecosystem, helping the mobile operators to realize the ideal true multi-vendor open RAN system.

Cloud’s Role Being More Critical in RAN Technologies

As most operators have put cloudification in their core networks and their Open RAN deployments are in place, they are figuring out which part is to be distributed as well as which part is to be centralized in the process of scaling up their transport networks to accommodate exploding 5G data. RAN protocol stack having been broken into a centralized unit (CU) and distributed unit (DU), operators, will have to examine on a case by case basis how to build the cloud infrastructure for RAN deployments for the best benefits to their networks.

More Large-scale and More Urban Deployments

With Rakuten’s successful case, the industry is now convinced that RAN is feasible at a commercial scale as well as in urban areas. Carriers worldwide will aggressively deploy Open RAN to expand their existing 2G/3G/4G footprints and upgrade their networks to ensure their overall infrastructure is Open RAN, guaranteeing their competitiveness in the following decade.

Innovations and More Capabilities of Software Solutions

To match the demands and services and to achieve optimal performance, software functions and interfaces will continue to evolve for the RAN components. More mixing and matching of RUs with DUs and CUs will drive the software capabilities to achieve higher levels of automation and virtualization, allowing more network operators to deploy open RAN more widely.

Security is the Default

Global service providers are more than ever counting on and investing in Open RAN as their infrastructure of choice. Security is going to be the default of all sorts of deployments.

What Lanner Can Offer

As a member of the Open RAN ecosystem, Lanner has solutions ready for operators’ DU and CU options:

  • Distribution Units (DU) in 5G open network, the 1U rack-mountable Lanner NCA-4020 is an Open RAN appliance with a short-depth design. Featuring 8/12/16-core Intel® Xeon® D-2100 processors, 10x GbE RJ45 (8 Port PoE+), 4x 10G SFP, and Intel® QAT for improved network performance, the NCA-4020 delivers significant performance enhancement in running multiple virtual network functions VNFs, reduces testing and validation efforts, and accelerates time-to-market deployment.
  • Centralized Units (CU), the Lanner HTCA-6200 is the carrier-grade MEC appliance. Equipped with the Lanner HLM-1100 switch blade that supports carrier-grade performance, HTCA-6200 can achieve mission-critical applications deployed in Radio Access Networks, 5G Edge Clouds, and Core Network Data Centers.