As consumers use their smartphones to make calls, text, or send videos and images to each other, not much thought is given on the underlying network technology behind it all. Unbeknownst to end users, mobile networks have been undergoing continuous advancement over the years, especially due to the increasing demand, and open standards have played a large role in this evolution.

Open standards allow for interoperability between different equipment from different suppliers, enabling network operators with freedom of choice and moving away from expensive, proprietary solutions. They establish protocols and building blocks to help make applications more functional, making possible for greater use of software-defined networking, hence cloud computing, network function virtualization and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques can be used to control core network functions.

The Radio Access Network (RAN) provides the critical technology to connect users and end-user devices to the mobile network’s core, acting as a bridge to access all the key applications on the web. An Open RAN (or O-RAN) is a concept based on interoperability and standardization of RAN element, allowing components from discrete suppliers to operate seamlessly together.

Open RAN Benefits & Importance

Open RAN architecture benefits include supply chain diversity, solution flexibility, and resilient network offering new capabilities leading to increased competition and further innovation. Open RAN offers network operators equipment and operational cost savings, along with improved network performance by implementing orchestration and closed-loop automation at the edge, making additional functions such as dynamic resource scheduling, embedding detection, and mitigation techniques available.

This disaggregation of hardware and software benefits operators by allowing multi-vendor deployments, which reduce costs by encouraging competition and enable smaller suppliers to become part of the development ecosystem. In terms of hardware, centralization and virtualization can reduce deployment, operation, and maintenance costs of physical equipment at base stations. By making use of cloud computing to implement sophisticated network function virtualization (NFV) and AI capabilities, for greater flexibility in network management and providing new applications, while AI can run algorithms for faster, better network performance. Operators utilizing Open vRANs would be able to modify their networks to incorporate future upgrades much easier than under legacy RAN architecture.

Additionally, Open RAN architecture can meet security challenges like malware, botnets, and other forms of potential attacks by securing all layers, interfaces, and attack surfaces in an automated manner by deploying secure cloud architecture across the entire development lifecycle. An Open RAN environment has greater visibility to security events and can detect an attack by using edge-based AI analytics and intrusion detection system.

Open RAN Development Key Challenges

Open RAN is one of the most exciting concepts in wireless technology as it can address so many critical needs, however challenges remain, including ensuring interoperability, troubleshooting difficulties, and security.

One challenge must deal with the use cases, traffic models, and deployment scenarios that Open RAN makes possible. The various network interfaces used in each scenario may adhere to different standards, and can impact the overall performance of the network and present interoperability issues.

Another potential issue is that with the array of diverse suppliers, configuration management issues may become more difficult to address, as do validation and testing. Troubleshooting issues after network deployment is a challenge as the environment is more complex.

While Open RAN offers many security enhancements, but the disaggregation of the RAN further increases the threat surface area creating additional security challenges that need to be investigated and mitigation techniques developed.

Lanner Open RAN Appliance

Open RAN networks hold tremendous promise for network operators through an open ecosystem enabling increased speed and scalability to capture the fast-growing market. Lanner’s Open Edge Server, HTCA-E400, was created to meet the challenging requirements for carrier-grade network control, edge cloud computing, and AI edge-focused applications for accelerating 5G deployment. Powered by the powerful 3rd Gen Intel® Xeon Scalable Processors (codenamed Ice Lake), HTCA-E400 supports 5x 1U compute sleds or 2x 2U+1U compute sleds, in addition to FPGA, GPU or Time Sync Cards, making it suitable as a consolidated Edge AI server for Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) servers, 5G Edge Cloud, and Central Units (CU) Open RAN platforms.

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Carrier-grade Edge Server Chassis for Open RAN / MEC

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