Assessment: Nokia and Samsung tout new equipment for Open RAN and Virtual RAN

For years, Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE supplied most of the wireless network infrastructure equipment (base stations, small cells, core network, etc) for building cellular networks and mobile operators can only pick one for each part of their network.  That may change with the movement of legacy telecom equipment companies like Nokia and Samsung announcing Open RAN products.

Nokia today became the first major telecom equipment maker to commit to adding open interfaces in its products that will allow mobile operators to build networks that are not tied to a vendor.  It’s Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN), aims to reduce reliance on any one vendor by making every part of a wireless 3G/4G/5G base station modular and interoperable which permits network operators to choose different suppliers for different components.  The company bolded stated in its press release:

“Nokia Open RAN (O-RAN) solutions will deliver world-class performance and security to the O-RAN ecosystem.”

As part of its implementation plan, Nokia plans to deploy Open RAN interfaces in its baseband and radio units, a spokesman said. An initial set of Open RAN functionalities will become available this year, while the full suite of interfaces is expected to be available in 2021, the company said.

Nokia, unlike other Ericsson, Huawei, and other base station vendors, has participated in the development of open RAN technology and have joined the O-RAN Alliance and TIP Open RAN project.

The Finnish telecom giant (which includes what’s left of Alcatel-Lucent) promised an initial set of O-RAN functionalities this year and a “full suite” of O-RAN-defined interfaces in 2021. Nokia’s press release, made no mention of external partners/customers.

“Several operators have now committed to Open RAN,  due to the enhanced flexibility that O-RAN can bring. New operators are fully committing to Open RAN and alternative hardware vendors throughout their networks, and legacy operators are using O-RAN to create opportunities for innovative new products to fit into their complex networks. This overall trend strengthens the ecosystem and allows for specialty radios to address the infinite variety of real-world applications. Nokia is the only major vendor that has fully committed to actively developing the O-RAN interfaces, ensuring that its 5G RAN solutions will support the future open ecosystem the operators are seeking,” said Joe Madden, a principal analyst at Mobile Experts.  

Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “Nokia is committed to leading the open mobile future by investing in Open RAN and Cloud RAN solutions with the aim of enabling a robust telecom ecosystem with strong network performance and security. Nokia’s Cloud RAN solution leads the market and is continuing to evolve to a cloud-native architecture. We have ​the scale and capabilities to address the increased customer demand for this technology, underpinned by the world-class network performance and security that only Nokia can deliver.”

Nokia

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Samsung followed Nokia’s announcement today, announcing RAN products that are fully “virtualized” baseband and radio units. The South Korean conglomerate said in its press release  that it’s  fully-virtualized 5G Radio Access Network (vRAN) solution will be commercially available this quarter.

“The solution provides a new option for mobile operators seeking improved efficiencies, cost savings, and management benefits from deploying a software-based 5G radio infrastructure,” according to that press release.

Samsung’s 5G vRAN consists of a virtualized Central Unit (vCU), a virtualized Distributed Unit (vDU), and a wide range of radio units to enable a smooth migration to 5G. By replacing the dedicated baseband hardware used in a traditional RAN architecture with software elements on a general-purpose computing platform, mobile operators can scale 5G capacity and performance more easily, add new features quickly, and have flexibility to support multiple architectures.  Samsung’s vRAN solution operates on x86-based COTS servers, either with or without hardware accelerators depending on factors such as total bandwidth. The company said:

“When combined with Samsung’s virtualized 4G/5G Core (network), the operator will be able to implement an end-to-end software-based radio and core network running on COTS x86 servers.”

Samsung already commercialized its virtualized Central Unit (vCU) in April 2019, which operates in live networks in Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. The new 5G vRAN solution has expanded to include a virtualized baseband or Distributed Unit (vDU).

“Samsung’s 5G vRAN validates a software-based alternative to vendor-specific hardware, while offering high performance, flexibility, and stability,” said Jaeho Jeon, Executive Vice President and Head of R&D, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “Once the solution becomes commercially available this quarter, we look forward to providing carriers with additional architectural options for building innovative and open 5G networks.”

“Samsung is a big believer in open systems,” explained Alok Shah, Samsung’s VP of strategy, marketing and business development. “It’s what our customers are asking for.”

“Now, more than ever, mobile operators recognize the need for quality-driven, flexible, scalable, and cost-efficient network architectures while planning for 5G network success,” said Peter Jarich, Head of GSMA Intelligence. “RAN virtualization will be an important tool in helping to deliver on those demands and Samsung’s continuing vRAN innovation positions it well to deliver.”

Derek Johnston, Samsung’s head of marketing and 5G business development for the Networks unit, said the company completed a final validation test performed for customers this past April. The press release said: “Samsung demonstrated its vRAN capabilities to customers in April 2020, proving the feasibility of full virtualization by operating 5G New Radio (NR) baseband functions in software running on an x86-based COTS server.”

Samsung Wallpapers

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Samsung is a RAN equipment supplier to cellular networks in  Korea, U.S., and most recently Japan, where the majority of worldwide 5G subscribers are currently located. In addition, Samsung is further expanding its global footprint rapidly to new markets from Europe to Canada and New Zealand.  It has recently closed contracts with Videotron and Telus in Canada, KDDI in Japan and Spark in New Zealand.

In the U.S., it is one of the suppliers for AT&T and Verizon’s 5G networks. Earlier this year the South Korean vendor received a 5G RAN contract with U.S. Cellular. Field trials of the vRAN kit will happen with North American customers in the second half of 2020, according to Johnston.

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Assessment, Comment and Analysis:

1.   Samsung is a smaller player in the RAN market, so likely is going after greenfield or brown field carriers with its Open RAN offerings.  Perhaps, U.S. rural wireless carriers will be fertile ground for the Korean giant, as many have been forced to “rip and replace” Huawei gear.

Samsung named several technology partners, including Qualcomm, HPE, Marvell and Xilinx for its base station products. Samsung, for example, has a deal with HPE to work on 5G core software and edge computing offerings, according to Mike Dano of Light Reading.   For many years, we have been very skeptical about vRANs for many reasons.  While it would greatly reduce the cost and OPEX of dedicated, purpose built RAN infrastructure equipment, it represents a single point of failure, an exponentially enlarged malware attack target, and lower performance, especially latency and jitter (delay variation) requirements for critical real time applications.

2.  Nokia made no reference to other firms (partners or customers) in its O-RAN announcement today. In May, the company said it had joined the Open RAN Policy Coalition to help enable a comprehensive and secure approach to 5G and future network generations.

One has to wonder if Nokia is using their O-RAN/Open RAN Policy Coalition announcements as an optional check-off item for wireless carriers that will buy purpose built RAN equipment today, but want the option of going Open RAN in the future, when the smoke clears?

Much more significant is potential multi-vendor interoperability problems with Open RAN.  There are two independent consortiums generating open source hardware/software specs for it (the O-RAN Alliance and TIP Open RAN project), which have some sort of undescribed relationship.

In an earlier Techblog post, we noted that two vendors from the O-RAN Alliance had to generate their own spec for an O-RAN radio and its interface to the baseband module.

I always thought that an open hardware project (e.g. O-RAN Alliance) would completely specify all hardware modules (like OCP does).  In this case, radios used in 4G/5G cellular networks within an Open RAN environment.  Evidently, I was wrong!

The Open RAN interoperability problem is highlighted by these two quotes in that article:

“Very few companies are participating in the current (OpenRAN) supply chain and mostly offering proprietary radio solutions lacking open interfaces that are not interoperable with other network elements. In addition, the requirement to procure products from trusted vendors in the US market is also causing operators to reconsider supplier options. OpenRAN radios provide new possibilities for operators to implement a secure, cost effective and best of breed solution as networks move to 5G and beyond.”

Parallel Wireless CEO Steve Papa commented to Light Reading that Open RAN (aka O-RAN) “will only be as good as the radios that are available,” he said.  “If Ericsson and Nokia are struggling to be competitive with Huawei’s radios, we should not expect O-RAN to magically solve this problem by using the same semiconductors available to Ericsson and Nokia at present.”

Until it can demonstrate full interoperability between its own products and those made by other O-RAN suppliers, Nokia (along with every other Open RAN supplier) will find it quite difficult to sell O-RAN products.

References:

https://www.nokia.com/about-us/news/releases/2020/07/07/nokia-accelerates-availability-of-open-ran-technology-to-lead-the-open-mobile-future/

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nokia-5g/nokia-to-add-open-interfaces-to-its-telecom-equipment-idUSKBN2480S0

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/nokia-and-samsung-o-ran-moves-put-pressure-on-ericsson/d/d-id/762205?

https://news.samsung.com/global/samsung-introduces-fully-virtualized-5g-ran-for-commercial-availability

https://www.samsung.com/global/business/networks/insights/blog/realizing-the-benefits-of-virtualized-ran/

https://www.fiercewireless.com/tech/samsung-unveils-commercial-5g-vran

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/05/30/ultra-oxymoron-gsma-teams-up-with-o-ran-alliance-without-liaison-with-3gpp-or-itu/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/06/12/mavenir-and-altiostar-collaborate-to-deliver-openran-radios-for-us-market/

Ultra Oxymoron: GSMA teams up with O-RAN Alliance without liaison with 3GPP or ITU

The GSMA and O-RAN Alliance are cooperating to accelerate the adoption of Open Radio Access Network (RAN) products and solutions that take advantage of new open virtualized architectures, software and hardware. The organizations will work together to harmonize the open networking ecosystem and agree on an industry roadmap for network solutions, thereby making access networks as open and flexible as possible for new market entrants.

GSMA. made up with established wireless telcos and incumbent network equipment vendors,  says that “5G will facilitate the opportunity to create even more agile, purpose-built networks tailored to the different needs of citizens, enterprises and society. For example, 5G is an essential ingredient of the European Commission’s recently launched Industrial Strategy and will help shape its future.”

O-RAN Alliance is a world-wide community of more than 170 mobile operators, vendors, and research & academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network (RAN) industry. It’s  mission is to re-shape the industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks. The new O-RAN standards will enable a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem with faster innovation to improve user experience. O-RAN-compliant mobile networks will at the same time improve the efficiency of RAN deployments as well as operations by the mobile operators.

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Author’s Opinion:

So here we have an upstart consortium (O-RAN Alliance), cooperating with an established mobile ecosystem marketing machine (GSMA) to promote “open and interoperable mobile networks.”  Yet the only way for that to be realized is through adherence to “open” standards and cooperating closely with recognized standards bodies.  That is the way interoperability is obtained- by defining open interfaces, layers and protocols!

Instead, O-RAN is making their own specifications (e.g. virtual RAN)  that are not part of any 5G standard or 3GPP spec!  In particular, the O-RAN Alliance has no liaisons with either 3GPP or ITU-R or ITU-T.   How is then possible to specify open hardware and software without any inter-change of documents with those standards organizations?  One would think that liaisons, spec iterations, close cooperation with feedback would be essential for success, e.g. a closed loop ecosystem between standards bodies and open source consortiums is urgently needed!

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In its latest Mobile Economy Report, the GSMA predicts that operators will invest more than a trillion dollars over the next five years globally to serve both consumer and enterprise customers, 80 per cent of which will be on 5G networks.

“When 5G reaches its potential, it will become the first generation of mobile networks to have a bigger impact on enterprises than consumers,” said Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA. “In the enterprise sector alone, we forecast $700 billion worth of economic value to be created by the 5G opportunity. The growth of the open networking ecosystem will be essential to meeting enterprise coverage and services needs in the 5G era.”

“As the demand for data and vastly expanded mobile communications grow in the 5G era, a global, cross-border approach is needed to rethink the RAN,” said Andre Fuetsch, Chairman of the O-RAN ALLIANCE, and Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, AT&T. “The GSMA collaboration with the O-RAN ALLIANCE is exactly the sort of global effort that’s needed for everyone, operators and vendors alike, to succeed in this new generation.”

Mobile operators are re-evaluating the way that their networks are deployed. New virtualised architectures with open interfaces can drive cost efficiencies and allow operators to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks. Also, open interfaces can help diversify and reinvigorate the supply chain promoting competition and innovation – for example, by building and operating a RAN based on mix-and-match components from different vendors.

The GSMA and O-RAN ALLIANCE collaboration complements the recently announced inter-working between the GSMA and Telecom Infra Project (TIP), and the O-RAN Alliance and TIP. The goal for these collaborations is to help avoid fragmentation and accelerate the successful evolution of the industry towards a more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable RAN (see Author’s Opinion above) why this is highly unlikely to happen).

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Image Credit: O-RAN Alliance

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June 12, 2020 Update: Press Release from Mavenir and Aliostar:

“Very few companies are participating in the current (OpenRAN) supply chain and mostly offering proprietary radio solutions lacking open interfaces that are not interoperable with other network elements. In addition, the requirement to procure products from trusted vendors in the US market is also causing operators to reconsider supplier options. OpenRAN radios provide new possibilities for operators to implement a secure, cost effective and best of breed solution as networks move to 5G and beyond.”

Mavenir and Altiostar Collaborate to Deliver OpenRAN Radios for US Market

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 750 operators with almost 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com. Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

About O-RAN ALLIANCE
O-RAN ALLIANCE is a world-wide community of more than 170 mobile operators, vendors, and research & academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network (RAN) industry. As the RAN is an essential part of any mobile network, O-RAN ALLIANCE’s mission is to re-shape the industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks. The new O-RAN standards will enable a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem with faster innovation to improve user experience. O-RAN-compliant mobile networks will at the same time improve the efficiency of RAN deployments as well as operations by the mobile operators. To achieve this, O-RAN ALLIANCE publishes new RAN specifications, releases open software for the RAN, and supports its members in integration and testing of their implementations.

For a short video describing O-RAN’s progress, see www.o-ran.org/videos

For more information please visit www.o-ran.org

Media Contacts: 
For the GSMA
Alia Ilyas
+44 (0) 7970 637622
ailyas@gsma.com

GSMA Press Office
pressoffice@gsma.com

O-RAN ALLIANCE:
Zbynek Dalecky
pr@o-ran.org
O-RAN Alliance e.V.
Buschkauler Weg 27
53347 Alfter/Germany

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References:

GSMA and O-RAN Alliance Collaborate on Opening up 5G Networks

 

5G breaks from proprietary systems, embraces open source RANs

Altiostar testing O-RAN Compliant 5G Massive MIMO with NEC and Rakuten Mobile

Altiostar announced testing of massive MIMO 5G over a virtual Radio Access Network (vRAN) in collaboration with NEC and Rakuten Mobile. The tests aim to ensure interoperability of multi-vendor systems based on the open RAN specifications from the O-RAN alliance.

ORAN Alliance

Open RAN Layered Architecture from the O-RAN Alliance

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Altiostar is integrating the O-RAN Distributed Unit (O-DU) functionality of its virtual radio access network (vRAN) software with NEC’s O-RAN Radio Unit (O-RU) using fully compliant control, user, synchronization and management (C/U/S/M) plane protocols based on O-RAN Alliance guidelines. The 5G layer is built using container network functions (CNF) that leverage Rakuten Mobile’s cloud infrastructure platform that is part of its 4G network build out.

As part of management-plane integration, Altiostar is following a hierarchical model that allows the O-DU software to manage the NEC O-RU, including providing software upgrades, RU configuration, fault management and performance monitoring. This interoperability is being performed for 5G new radio (NR) sub-6 GHz massive MIMO O-RU and meets all the 3GPP downlink/uplink (DL/UL) requirements.

Altiostar says they have “pioneered RAN disaggregation since 2013 when it first introduced a split between the higher non-real-time layers of the protocol stack and the lower layers of the stack.  The industry then standardized this concept in the 3GPP and what is now known as the option-2 split between the centralized unit and the distributed unit. This paved the way for operators to think differently when it comes to disaggregation and network deployment,” according to Altiostar.

Further disaggregation was introduced by Altiostar in the form of a radio interface unit. The RIU incorporates lower L1 functionality and provides a gateway function that converts Common Public Radio Interface to/from Ethernet.  By eliminating the high bandwidth and proprietary CPRI interface to the radio, Altiostar took a key step towards integrating legacy Remote Radio Head over an Ethernet transport network to O-DU functionality.

Using this technology, the first multi-vendor RAN was deployed at a commercial scale and paved the way for operators to engage radio vendors to build O-RAN compliant radios. Rakuten Mobile’s adoption of the platform has helped move forward the ecosystem and open interfaces in the industry.

“Open RAN as a concept is one that the whole industry is now actively pursuing as a means to introduce supply chain diversity into mobile networks globally,” said Ashraf Dahod, CEO of Altiostar Networks. “Altiostar is leading the industry with this network transformation by ensuring interoperability, integration and most importantly extensive testing to ensure that we have a commercial, carrier-grade solution for both 4G and 5G while keeping the principles of Open RAN in place.”

“Rakuten Mobile is a big supporter of O-RAN principles and has seen the benefit of supply chain diversity in our own network,” said Tareq Amin, Representative Director, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Rakuten Mobile. “By combining the spectral efficiency of massive MIMO along with an advanced cloud-based RAN, we are leveraging and introducing advanced innovative technology from both NEC and Altiostar, who are specialists in these respective fields.”

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References:

Altiostar Conducting O-RAN Compliant 5G Massive MIMO Technology Interoperability Testing in Cooperation with NEC and Rakuten Mobile

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/rakuten-mobile-tests-massive-mimo-5g-over-vran-with-altiostar-nec–1339188

Open RAN Policy Coalition: U.S. attempt to exclude Chinese 5G network equipment vendors?

Believe it or not, there is now a third Open RAN consortium, joining the ORAN Alliance and TIP OpenRAN. Even more astonishing is that none of the three consortiums have any liaison or co-operation with ITU-R or ITU-T which are standardizing 5G as IMT 2020 radio and non-radio aspects, respectively.  Nor do these consortiums liaise with 3GPP which is the REAL mover and shaker developing 5G specs that are implementable.

Thirty-one global technology companies have launched the Open RAN Policy Coalition to promote policies that will advance the adoption of open and interoperable solutions in the Radio Access Network (RAN) as a means to create innovation, spur competition and expand the supply chain for advanced wireless technologies including 5G.

Open RAN Policy Coalition founding members include Airspan, Altiostar, AT&T, AWS, Cisco, CommScope, Dell, DISH Network, Facebook, Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, Mavenir, Microsoft, NEC Corporation, NewEdge Signal Solutions, NTT, Oracle, Parallel Wireless, Qualcomm, Rakuten Mobile, Samsung Electronics America, Telefónica, US Ignite, Verizon, VMWare, Vodafone, World Wide Technology, and XCOM-Labs.

“Open RAN networks are a significant departure from the traditional industry model and legislators need to know the advantages and how government actions can help accelerating the development and deployment of open and interoperable solutions,” said Thierry Maupilé, Altiostar’s executive vice president, in a statement.

“As evidenced by the current global pandemic, vendor choice and flexibility in next-generation network deployments are necessary from a security and performance standpoint,” said Diane Rinaldo [1.], Executive Director, Open RAN Policy Coalition.  “By promoting policies that standardize and develop open interfaces, we can ensure interoperability and security across different players and potentially lower the barrier to entry for new innovators.”  Yet that is exactly what the O-RAN Alliance and TIP OpenRAN project were set up to do.

Note 1.  Ms. Rinaldo was until recently the deputy assistant secretary for communications and information at the US Department of Commerce (DoC).

In past generations of mobile networks, the networks were deployed using fully integrated cell sites, where the radios, hardware and software were provided by a single manufacturer as a closed proprietary solution.  Today, the industry is working towards standards and technical specifications that define open interfaces between the radios, hardware and software so that networks can be deployed using more than one vendor.

Multi-vendor deployments enable a more competitive marketplace and give network operators greater ability to manage their networks and flexibility to draw on the innovations of multiple suppliers to upgrade their infrastructure with the latest technology.

Using multiple interoperable suppliers also allows operators to potentially move more quickly to replace or address vulnerable network equipment when reacting to threats, and shift network capacity on demand.

The coalition believes that the U.S. Federal Government has an important role to play in facilitating and fostering an open, diverse and secure supply chain for advanced wireless technologies, including 5G, such as by funding research and development, and testing open and interoperable networks and solutions, and incentivizing supply chain diversity.

Isn’t that a clear indication the coalition has and will continue to exclude Chinese vendors like Huawei and ZTE?

The launch of the new group, interestingly, comes several weeks after a bipartisan group of US senators proposed investing more than $1 billion in open RAN technologies. Under their plans, the funds would come from spectrum auction proceeds and be managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

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Rakuten leads the way forward for Open RANs:

Rakuten Mobile has deployed a version of Open RAN in Japan.  The greenfield virtualized, open RAN build was made available for commercial LTE services in April with plans to move to 5G on the virtualized infrastructure. A number of Rakuten Mobile’s vendors, including NEC, are members of the Open RAN Policy Coalition. Further, Rakuten Mobile has expressed interest in providing its network model to other operators interested in following a similar virtualized OPEN RAN 5G network.

Source: Rakuten.

However, analysts have remained skeptical that Rakuten can challenge Japan’s old guard with a cloud-only mobile network. In a research note published in March, shortly before Rakuten’s launch, Atul Goyal, an analyst with Jefferies, flagged “numerous connectivity issues” when Rakuten introduced its beta service in late 2019. “A poor-quality, low-price network is likely to fail in Japan,” he wrote. Its failure would be a huge setback for open RAN.

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Parallel Wireless is on board:

Parallel Wireless CEO Steve Papa told RCR Wireless that the open RAN business model matches the generational shifts in cellular. “The economics of a coverage technology and architecture don’t scale well as a capacity architecture. The entire business models of the incumbent vendors don’t work and don’t map to what the people deploying the equipment require given the economic realities.”

Papa continued to say that open RAN “is exposing this to more innovators to participate, which is good. But more importantly, the U.S. government is waking up to its role in supporting the semiconductor market.” He noted the Made in China 2025 focus on developing semiconductor expertise and other moves he characterized as “a state actor tipping to playing field…Our commercial market in communications infrastructure equipment is being distorted by a state actor. We can let that happen or we can counter it in a similar way.”

“We see this coalition as an important addition to the standards work that O-RAN Alliance is doing and also global deployments driven by TIP,” said Steve Papa, the CEO of Parallel Wireless, in comments emailed to Light Reading.

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References:

www.openRANpolicy.org

https://www.rcrwireless.com/20200505/policy/open-ran-policy-coalition-launches

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/us-sets-up-new-open-ran-group-amid-telecom-slugfest-with-china/d/d-id/759409?

TIP OpenRAN and O-RAN Alliance liaison and collaboration for Open Radio Access Networks

O-RAN Alliance, Telecom Infra Project (TIP) & OCP Telco may open up telecom equipment market to new entrants

 

 

Telefónica and partners pursue development of 4G/5G Open RAN technology

Telefónica has announced an agreement to develop 4G and 5G Open RAN technology with partner companies Altiostar, Gigatera Communications, Intel, Supermicro and Xilinx. The Spain based pan European network operator also said it intends to launch vendor-neutral 4G and 5G Open RAN trials in UK, Germany, Spain and Brazil this year.

Telefonica said this latest collaboration comprises the necessary design and developments, integration efforts, operational procedures and testing activities required to deploy Open RAN in its networks.  The Spanish network operator says this is part of its continuing efforts to lead network transformation towards 5G and that the collaboration would progress the design, development, optimisation, testing and industrialisation of Open RAN technologies across its footprint this year.

The collaboration focuses on the distributed units (DUs) and remote radio units (RRUs).  The DUs implement part of the baseband radio functions using the FlexRAN software reference platform and servers based on the Intel Xeon processor. The RRUs connect through open interfaces, based on O-RAN Alliance’s fronthaul specification, and software that manages the connectivity in an open cloud RAN architecture.

Telefonica said DUs and RRUs will be designed with 5G-ready capabilities, meaning they can work in either 4G or 5G mode by means of a remote software upgrade. It will be testing the 4G and 5G hardware and software components in the lab and in the field this year, integrating an Open RAN model as part of its UNICA Next virtualization program.

Telefónica logo

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The premise is that Open RAN will be cheaper as it encourages more suppliers into the market, especially in terms of the baseband hardware where economies of scale from using standard IT can be deployed.

A cloudified open radio access architecture can also enable faster software innovation and advanced features like network automation, self-optimization of radio resources and coordination of radio access nodes.

The main goal of the trial is to define precisely the hardware and software components in 4G and 5G to guarantee seamless interoperability. This includes:
• Testing the complete solution in the lab and in the field,
• Integrating the Open RAN model as part of the end-to-end virtualisation program (UNICA Next),
• Maturing the operational model, and
• Demonstrating new services and automation capabilities as offered by the Open RAN model.

The DUs and RRUs are designed with 5G-ready capabilities and so can work in 4G or 5G mode by means of a remote software upgrade.

Illustration of OpenRAN:

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The OpenRAN trial also supports exposure to third-party, multi-access edge computing (MEC) applications through open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and integration with the virtualisation activities in the core and transport networks. Open interfaces also mean that operators can upgrade specific parts of the network without impacting others.

Telefónica describes this openness to third-party MEC applications as “the cornerstone” to bringing added-value to the customers by enabling a variety of rich 5G services, like virtual and augmented reality, online gaming, connected car, the industrial internet of things (IoT) and more.

Edge-computing applications running in the telco cloud can benefit from the strong capillarity of the access network, so services can be tailored instantly to match the users’ needs and the status of the live network.

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Quotes:

Enrique Blanco, Telefónica’s CTIO:  “Once again, Telefónica is leading the transformation towards having the best-in-class networks in our Operations with our customers as key pillars. Open RAN is a fundamental piece for that purpose while widening the ecosystem.”

“Telefónica is known for its leading-edge network and has been championing open vRAN implementations to bring greater network service agility and flexibility,” said Pierre Kahhale, Altiostar Vice President of Field Operations. “By bringing together the best-of-breed innovation, Telefonica is looking to achieve this vision into their network. We look forward to supporting this transformation of Telefonica’s network.”

Heavy Reading principal analyst Gabriel Brown: “Up to now, the open RAN action has been all about 4G. In 5G, the major integrated systems vendors [Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE] have been supplying their state-of-the-art systems to the market for about 18 months,” creating a big gap between what is available from them and what can be sourced from the open RAN community, says the analyst. “This move by Telefónica could help to stop that gap getting too much wider.”

“Gigatera Communications and Telefonica has been actively working to ensure state of the art technologies are being deployed.  We truly value our partnership as we engage and revolutionize the industry.”, Daniel Kim, President.

“Open RAN offers a way for service providers to enhance customer experiences and enable new revenue-generating applications,” said Dan Rodriguez, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Network Platforms Group.  “We are collaborating closely with Telefonica and the broader ecosystem, and also participating in initiatives like the O-RAN Alliance, to help accelerate innovation in the industry.”

“Supermicro is excited to partner with Telefónica, a premier telecommunications provider, to deliver server-class 5G solutions based on Open RAN architecture,”, Charles Liang, president and CEO of Supermicro. “Working closely with Telefónica on the deployment of 5G in the significant EMEA region, Supermicro’s history of rapid time-to-market for advanced, high-performance, resource-saving solutions is a key component for the successful implementation of next-generation applications, especially as x86 compute designs migrate to the telco market.”

“Xilinx is excited to collaborate with the disruptive mobile operator Telefónica as it leads the move to O-RAN” said Liam Madden, executive vice president and general manager, Wired and Wireless Group, Xilinx. “Our adaptable technology supports multiple standards, multiple bands and multiple sub-networks, providing Telefónica with a unique and flexible platform for radio, fronthaul, and acceleration for 4G and 5G networks.”

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References:

https://www.telefonica.com/en/web/press-office/-/telefonica-joins-forces-with-altiostar-gigatera-communications-intel-supermicro-and-xilinx-for-the-development-and-deployment-of-open-ran-in-4g-and-5g

https://www.mobileeurope.co.uk/press-wire/telefonica-partners-to-launch-4g-and-5g-open-ran-trials

https://www.totaltele.com/505252/Telefonica-rallies-a-posse-of-Open-RAN-vendors-to-take-on-5G

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/03/14/o-ran-alliance-telecom-infra-project-tip-ocp-telco-may-open-up-telecom-equipment-market-to-new-entrants/

https://telecominfraproject.com/openran/

https://www.lightreading.com/4g-3g-wifi/telefonica-takes-open-ran-into-5g-territory/d/d-id/758293?

O-RAN Alliance, Telecom Infra Project (TIP) & OCP Telco may open up telecom equipment market to new entrants

“There was more choice of network equipment suppliers 15 years ago than there is now and the industry is keen on expanding that vendor ecosystem,” Vodafone Group PLC’s Head of Network Strategy and Architecture, Santiago Tenorio, told Dow Jones Newswires.

For sure, the telecom industry would like to have more network equipment vendors to diversify supply chains, reducing risk and lowering costs.  Network operators are pushing for change in the telecom-equipment market. Two international alliances of tech and telecom companies, universities and research centers are trying to develop networks that source gear from multiple vendors, which could attract new players to the market.

“Everybody wants it to happen,” said Janardan Menon, technology analyst at brokerage Liberum Capital. Mr. Menon expects progress to be slow but steady, and cautioned that it could take years before these open-architecture networks become a reality.

The O-RAN Alliance–which counts U.S. cell carriers Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and Sprint Corp. as well as China Mobile Ltd. and Japan’s SoftBank Corp. among its members–is creating an ecosystem of new products that will support multi-vendor, interoperable radio-access networks. Meanwhile, the Telecom Infra Project, whose members include Facebook Inc. and Vodafone among others, is working on similar projects. Tech giants such as Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. are backing both groups.

Nokia is also a member of both the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project OpenRAN group. Ericsson has engaged with the O-RAN Alliance, which the Swedish company sees as aligning closer to its goals, but not with the Telecom Infra Project.

“Ericsson is actively contributing towards O-RAN specifications to make it a viable alternative in the future,” an Ericsson spokesperson said. Nokia and Huawei didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) in February agreed to collaborate on 5G radio-access networks. They reached a liaison deal that allows for sharing information, referencing specifications and conducting joint testing.

Although some 4G projects using these open-architecture are already in operation, the technology isn’t yet ready to be deployed at scale. Facebook and Telefonica have launched a telecom-infrastructure company in Peru called Internet para Todos, which relies on so-called open radio-access network, or OpenRAN. Meanwhile, Vodafone is testing OpenRAN in rural parts of the U.K., following trials in South Africa and Turkey.

OpenRAN is ready to be deployed commercially in pockets of the network, but not at scale throughout a market yet,” Mr. Tenorio said. “None of the smaller providers which OpenRAN is bringing into the market are ready yet to compete at scale with the likes of Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei,” he added.

The development of open-architecture networks began before Huawei’s blacklisting problems. The Telecom Infra Project was launched four years ago, and the O-RAN Alliance was formed in 2018 through the combination of two projects with shared goals.

There is no major U.S. manufacturer of cellular equipment currently, even though the U.S. is the biggest market in the industry for telecom equipment. The rise of open-architecture networks could create opportunities for smaller companies like Parallel Wireless, Mavenir or Altiostar, all of them based in the U.S., to have a say in the future of telecom networks.

It is unlikely that these new entrants take revenue from Huawei, Ericsson or Nokia in the next few years, said Liberum’s Mr. Menon. However, as the market begins to perceive that there are alternatives to the trio, their valuations could be hit, Mr. Menon said.

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Telco is an important open hardware project within the Open Compute Project (OCP):

There is an industry desire to apply open hardware OCP model to the creation of open telecom optimized hardware.  The OCP Telco Project enlists participants from telecom companies and carriers as well as sub systems, software, board and semiconductor suppliers who are seeking to use data center infrastructure to deliver IT services.

As technologists across industries participate in this community, OCP is creating and refining more designs, making it possible for more companies to transition from their old,existing  proprietary solutions to Open Compute Project (OCP) solutions gear. and interoperable, multi-vendor supplier support.

The openEDGE Sub-Project is under the direction of the OCP Telco Project Group.

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References:

TIP OpenRAN and O-RAN Alliance liaison and collaboration for Open Radio Access Networks

https://www.o-ran.org/

https://telecominfraproject.com/

https://www.opencompute.org/projects/telco

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/02/12/nec-and-mavenir-collaborate-to-deliver-5g-open-vran-platform/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/04/03/o-ran-alliance-and-linux-foundation-form-o-ran-open-source-community-open-networking-assessment/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/09/18/ntt-docomo-achieves-multi-vendor-4g-5g-ran-using-o-ran-specifications/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/02/05/u-s-government-tech-companies-to-create-software-standards-for-5g-telecommunications-networks/

O-RAN Alliance, Telecom Infra Project (TIP) & OCP Telco may open up telecom equipment market to new entrants

“There was more choice of network equipment suppliers 15 years ago than there is now and the industry is keen on expanding that vendor ecosystem,” Vodafone Group PLC’s Head of Network Strategy and Architecture, Santiago Tenorio, told Dow Jones Newswires.

For sure, the telecom industry would like to have more network equipment vendors to diversify supply chains, reducing risk and lowering costs.  Network operators are pushing for change in the telecom-equipment market. Two international alliances of tech and telecom companies, universities and research centers are trying to develop networks that source gear from multiple vendors, which could attract new players to the market.

“Everybody wants it to happen,” said Janardan Menon, technology analyst at brokerage Liberum Capital. Mr. Menon expects progress to be slow but steady, and cautioned that it could take years before these open-architecture networks become a reality.

The O-RAN Alliance–which counts U.S. cell carriers Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and Sprint Corp. as well as China Mobile Ltd. and Japan’s SoftBank Corp. among its members–is creating an ecosystem of new products that will support multi-vendor, interoperable radio-access networks. Meanwhile, the Telecom Infra Project, whose members include Facebook Inc. and Vodafone among others, is working on similar projects. Tech giants such as Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. are backing both groups.

Nokia is also a member of both the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project OpenRAN group. Ericsson has engaged with the O-RAN Alliance, which the Swedish company sees as aligning closer to its goals, but not with the Telecom Infra Project.

“Ericsson is actively contributing towards O-RAN specifications to make it a viable alternative in the future,” an Ericsson spokesperson said. Nokia and Huawei didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) in February agreed to collaborate on 5G radio-access networks. They reached a liaison deal that allows for sharing information, referencing specifications and conducting joint testing.

Although some 4G projects using these open-architecture are already in operation, the technology isn’t yet ready to be deployed at scale. Facebook and Telefonica have launched a telecom-infrastructure company in Peru called Internet para Todos, which relies on so-called open radio-access network, or OpenRAN. Meanwhile, Vodafone is testing OpenRAN in rural parts of the U.K., following trials in South Africa and Turkey.

OpenRAN is ready to be deployed commercially in pockets of the network, but not at scale throughout a market yet,” Mr. Tenorio said. “None of the smaller providers which OpenRAN is bringing into the market are ready yet to compete at scale with the likes of Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei,” he added.

The development of open-architecture networks began before Huawei’s blacklisting problems. The Telecom Infra Project was launched four years ago, and the O-RAN Alliance was formed in 2018 through the combination of two projects with shared goals.

There is no major U.S. manufacturer of cellular equipment currently, even though the U.S. is the biggest market in the industry for telecom equipment. The rise of open-architecture networks could create opportunities for smaller companies like Parallel Wireless, Mavenir or Altiostar, all of them based in the U.S., to have a say in the future of telecom networks.

It is unlikely that these new entrants take revenue from Huawei, Ericsson or Nokia in the next few years, said Liberum’s Mr. Menon. However, as the market begins to perceive that there are alternatives to the trio, their valuations could be hit, Mr. Menon said.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Telco is an important open hardware project within the Open Compute Project (OCP):

There is an industry desire to apply open hardware OCP model to the creation of open telecom optimized hardware.  The OCP Telco Project enlists participants from telecom companies and carriers as well as sub systems, software, board and semiconductor suppliers who are seeking to use data center infrastructure to deliver IT services.

As technologists across industries participate in this community, OCP is creating and refining more designs, making it possible for more companies to transition from their old,existing  proprietary solutions to Open Compute Project (OCP) solutions gear. and interoperable, multi-vendor supplier support.

The openEDGE Sub-Project is under the direction of the OCP Telco Project Group.

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References:

TIP OpenRAN and O-RAN Alliance liaison and collaboration for Open Radio Access Networks

https://www.o-ran.org/

https://telecominfraproject.com/

https://www.opencompute.org/projects/telco

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/02/12/nec-and-mavenir-collaborate-to-deliver-5g-open-vran-platform/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/04/03/o-ran-alliance-and-linux-foundation-form-o-ran-open-source-community-open-networking-assessment/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/09/18/ntt-docomo-achieves-multi-vendor-4g-5g-ran-using-o-ran-specifications/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/02/05/u-s-government-tech-companies-to-create-software-standards-for-5g-telecommunications-networks/

TIP OpenRAN and O-RAN Alliance liaison and collaboration for Open Radio Access Networks

Overview:

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN project and the O-RAN Alliance today announced a liaison agreement to ensure their alignment in developing interoperable, disaggregated and  open Radio Access Network (RAN) solutions.

Since their inception, the overlapping efforts of the two consortiums led to a lot of questions about duplication of work, different specs and interface for the same functions as well as different IP licensing policies.  The two groups are calling this liaison arrangement as a “new level of collaboration” for open RAN, rather than a merger.  The press release stated:

With this liaison agreement O-RAN and TIP are now reaching a new level of collaboration for open RAN. The liaison allows for sharing information, referencing specifications and conducting joint testing and integration efforts.

The O-RAN Alliance was formed in February 2018 when the x-RAN Forum merged with the C-RAN Alliance.  The group is focused on the development of open, intelligent, virtualized and interoperable RAN specifications. The Alliance has already created 31 specifications, with 37 demonstrations of the technology at past MWC events, global plugfests, and more than 1 000 000 lines of code released in partnership with the Linux Foundation. Operators have begun to announce network implementations.

O-RAN Alliance’s mission and focus complements TIP’s mission of deploying end-to-end disaggregated telecom infrastructure in varying environments.

TIP said it’s seen a rapid increase in demand for advanced OpenRAN trials and deployments.

  • Following on the heels of its TIP Summit announcement in November 2019, Vodafone launched trials in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is progressing with trials in the UK and Ireland.
  • In Indonesia, Indosat Ooredoo and Smartfren will conduct the first OpenRAN field trials in the APAC region. Smartfren has also conducted and completed the first OpenRAN lab trial in the region.
  • In Malaysia, Edotco, the tower arm of Axiata group, is collaborating with Celcom Axiata in conducting lab trials with the path to field trials. Following their announcement of TIP OpenRAN deployment in the UAE, Etisalat is starting trials of OpenRAN systems in other regions. In North America, Sprint completed its RFI evaluation and will begin trials of OpenRAN 5G NR technologies in its TIP Community Lab.

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Evenstar Program to feed into OpenRAN:

Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, MTI, AceAxis, Facebook Connectivity and additional partners have unveiled the Evenstar RRU (Remote Radio Units). The Evenstar program will focus on building general-purpose RAN reference designs for 4G/5G networks in the Open RAN ecosystem that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications.

The Evenstar program will contribute to the OpenRAN ecosystem by focusing on building general-purpose RAN reference designs for 4G and 5G networks that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications and will help accelerate the adoption of TIP OpenRAN Project Group Solutions.

By decoupling the RRU hardware, Central Unit (CU) and Distributed Unit (DU) software, mobile network operators will have the ability to select best-of-breed components and the flexibility to deploy solutions from an increasing number of technology partners, TIP said. The intention of the Evenstar program is to contribute the proposed solution into TIP’s OpenRAN Project Group to help accelerate adoption.

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Quotes:

“This new collaboration framework between O-RAN and TIP, two major initiatives in the area of open networking, will support our mission to re-shape the RAN industry towards open and intelligent mobile network infrastructure,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, COO of the O-RAN Alliance and SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom.

“Alignment on O-RAN interoperability efforts will help the industry to speed up the delivery of commercial open RAN solutions. The establishment of the first joint O-RAN Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC) with the TIP Community Lab in Berlin is a concrete step to facilitate this multi-community approach.”

“TIP’s OpenRAN solutions are an important element of our work to accelerate innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core & Services. Across the TIP community, we are seeing increasing demand and have achieved meaningful progress with OpenRAN deployments around the world,” said Attilio Zani, Executive Director, Telecom Infra Project.

“With this collaboration framework in place, TIP and O-RAN will work together to develop interoperable 5G RAN solutions. One of our first outputs will be the release of the OpenRAN 5GNR NR Base Station Platform requirements document with normative references to the O-RAN specifications.”

“Our hope, longer term, is that this forms the ability to accelerate the solutions that are in the marketplace and drives greater adoption of Open RAN technologies across the world,” Zani added.

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About O-RAN Alliance:

O-RAN Alliance is a world-wide community of more than 160 mobile operators, vendors, and research & academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network (RAN) industry. As the RAN is an essential part of any mobile network, O-RAN Alliance’s mission is to re-shape the industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks. The new O-RAN standards will enable a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem with faster innovation to improve user experience. O-RAN-compliant mobile networks will at the same time improve the efficiency of RAN deployments as well as operations by the mobile operators. To achieve this, O-RAN Alliance publishes new RAN specifications, releases open software for the RAN, and supports its members in integration and testing of their implementations.

For a short video describing O-RAN’s progress, see www.o-ran.org/videos

For more information please visit www.o-ran.org

About Telecom Infra Project:

TIP is a collaborative telecom community that is evolving the infrastructure that underpins global connectivity. TIP’s mission is to accelerate the pace of innovation in next generation telecom networks, through the design, build, test and deployment of standards-based, open and disaggregated end-to-end solutions. Over the past four years, TIP has driven substantial innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core & Services, while spanning urban through to rural market use cases. To date, it has 13 Community Labs which test, validate and integrate solutions, embarked on field trials in Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Europe. The recently launched TIP Exchange hosts 45 products from 28 member companies.

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Vodafone Moves to O-RAN:

One of those early-adopter operators of the O-RAN Alliance specs is Vodafone. In November 2019, Vodafone’s head of network strategy and architecture Santiago Tenorio announced at the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Summit in Amsterdam that Vodafone would issue a request for quotes (RFQ) for open RAN technology for its entire European footprint.

“That’s significantly more than 100,000 sites, and all the technologies are to tender — 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G,” said Tenorio. “We’ve invited the incumbent suppliers in Europe of course, but we’ve also invited the open RAN suppliers.” He didn’t sound too optimistic about the incumbent suppliers. Apparently, they hadn’t even responded to a Vodafone request for information about open 5G new radio equipment.

Mostafa Essa, an AI and data analytics distinguished engineer with Vodafone, told FierceWireless: “If you use a specific vendor for the RAN and ask him to carry some new features for something you are needing that is impacting your customers, they have to go back to their R&D and build up features,” said Essa. “Then we’ll test and give feedback. Right now, by using the open RAN concept, you can build up whatever you want whenever you want. It’s not connected to vendors’ roadmaps,” he added.

Vodafone has been conducting field trials in some of its markets in Europe, including Spain, Italy and in a rural area north of London. Vodafone used Parallel Wireless for its first open RAN tests, which it conducted in Turkey and Africa.

Essa continued: “We have a lot of instability, which is to be expected in trials. Right now, we are in the building phase. When you roll out this technology, sometimes you can get a lot of dropped calls and so on. But it’s the same as working with the vendors…..who are building systems with their own closed-source software.”

References:

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200225005180/en/O-RAN-Alliance-Telecom-Infra-Project-TIP-Reach

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180227005673/en/xRAN-Forum-Merges-C-RAN-Alliance-Form-ORAN

https://www.fiercewireless.com/operators/vodafone-leads-early-adopter-phase-o-ran

https://www.lightreading.com/4g-3g-wifi/mavenir-highlights-role-in-tips-evenstar-program/d/d-id/757735

https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/tip-o-ran-alliance-reach-liaison-agreement

 

NTT DoCoMo achieves multi-vendor 4G/5G RAN using O-RAN specifications

NTT DoCoMo has announced that it has  achieved multi-vendor interoperability across a variety of 4G and pre-standard 5G base station equipment from Fujitsu, NEC and Nokia.   Equipment from those vendors supports the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) Alliance specifications, which are NOT standards as claimed in DoCoMo’s press release.  This is believed to be the world’s first realization of this level of multi-vendor interoperability in 4G and 5G base station equipment conforming to O-RAN specifications.

Up until now, cellular telcos (cellcos) have been locked into single cellular base station vendor contracts when deploying their radio access networks (RANs). Despite ITU-R standardization and 3GPP specifications, operators have not been able to use one vendor’s baseband gear with another’s radio equipment. Working across different 4G and 5G vendor systems has been similarly problematic if not impossible. Critics say this interoperability dilemma has led to “vendor lock-in” and strengthened a small number of giant RAN vendors, namely Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia.

The Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) Alliance wants to change that.  It is an operator led industry group working to create more open and intelligent next generation radio access networks, including 5G networks. The O-RAN specifications include RAN fronthaul and X2 profiles. There are 21 network operator members shown on the O-RAN Alliance member list, which includes NTT DoCoMo, AT&T, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, China Mobile, China Telecom and other tier 1 operators.

RAN fronthaul describes the connectivity between remote base stations and centralized  cell units, enabling multiple remote units to be serviced by a single central baseband unit using open hardware specs. Ultimately,  radio heads and baseband units may be mixed and matched to create a fully multi-vendor RAN.

The ability to deploy and interconnect base station equipment from different vendors will make it possible to select the equipment most suitable for deployment in any given environment, such as base stations offering broad coverage in rural areas or small base stations that can be deployed in urban areas where space is limited. This will in turn allow more rapid and flexible expansion of 5G coverage.

DoCoMo will deploy the equipment in the pre-commercial 5G service it plans to launch on September 20, 2019 in Japan.  Concurrent with the pre-commercial launch of its 5G services, DoCoMo will expand 5G coverage by combining 5G networks with existing 4G networks using equipment from diverse vendors. The signal transmission specifications that will enable this follows lengthy discussions within the O-RAN Alliance, which DoCoMo is chairing.

4G and 5G multi-vendor interoperability:

Image of 4G and 5G multi-vendor interoperability

O-RAN fronthaul interface specifications provide a foundation for interoperability between centralized units and remote units of 5G remote-installed base stations manufactured by diverse partners. With remote-installed base stations, centralization of the baseband processing will bring the following benefits:

  • Improved communication quality through coordination of multiple remote units
  • Pooling of resources through the aggregation of hardware
  • Minimization of equipment footprint, leading to a reduction in space and costs.

In addition, through the provision of only radio processing, the remote unit can be further downsized, making it possible to install in a variety of locations that would previously have not been viable, such as small buildings or mountainous areas.

The O-RAN X2 profile specifications provide a foundation for interoperability between 4G base stations and 5G base stations manufactured by diverse partners in 5G non-standalone (5G NSA) networks by taking 3GPP X2 interface specifications and specifying details for their usage. 3GPP Release 15 based 5G NR-NSA networks connect devices using both 4G and 5G technologies. The connection of 4G and 5G base stations makes it possible to combine the high-speed, low-latency data communications delivered by 5G technology with the comprehensive coverage of 4G networks.

Going forward, DoCoMo will continue to refine and develop its cutting-edge base station communication technology, aiming to expand the provision of stable 5G coverage.

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Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC):

O-RAN has announced the Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC) – an initiative led by China Mobile and Reliance Jio along with participation from China Telecom, China Unicom, Intel, Radisys, Airspan, Baicells, CertusNet, Mavenir, Lenovo, Ruijie Network, Inspur, Samsung Electronics, Sylincom, WindRiver, ArrayComm, and Chengdu NTS.

The above named companies are collaborating on multi-vendor interoperability and validation activities for O-RAN compliant 5G access infrastructure. The initial focus is to ensure RAN components from multiple vendors support standard and open interfaces and can interoperate in accordance with O-RAN test specifications.

“China Mobile will initiate an OTIC in Beijing, China, which should provide the common platform for solutions to be operationally ready to enable end-to-end interoperability and deployment in scale; as well as to be hardened for reliability, performance, scalability, and security that operator networks require,” said Dr. Li Zhengmao, EVP of China Mobile.

“Jio is creating an OTIC to accelerate the telecom industry transformation by driving ready-for-commercialisation products and solutions,” said Mathew Oommen, President, Reliance Jio.

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Heavy Reading Comments:

“It is pretty significant for O-RAN because DoCoMo is a genuinely leading operator, a rainmaker in these things,” says Gabriel Brown, a principal analyst with Heavy Reading. “They have said this will conform with O-RAN specifications in what looks like the production 4G and 5G network.”

“One of the criticisms of the 5G RAN was about using the same 4G vendor, but the implication here is that you could do multivendor,” said Brown, pointing to NTT DoCoMo’s statements about the O-RAN Alliance’s X2 specifications. “What they don’t appear to be saying is that they have different baseband vendors for 4G and 5G, but they are saying they can do it. There is no question at all this is a big statement about O-RAN.”

NTT DoCoMo’s update is not a complete surprise, he says, because the operator had already been in trials with Fujitsu, NEC and Nokia. Today’s move aligns that model with the O-RAN specifications at an important moment. “Whatever they are doing has to be rock solid because the Rugby World Cup is coming in a couple of weeks,” says Brown. “That is a warm-up for the 2020 Olympics in terms of international attention on Japanese networks and all operators will be launching a limited 5G service.”

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Telco Testimonials and Deployment Plans for O-RAN:

“ The O-RAN Alliance was created to accelerate the delivery of products that support a common, open architecture and standardized interfaces that we, as operators, view as the foundation of our next-generation wireless infrastructure, while ensuring a broad community of suppliers driven by innovation and open market competition. ” — Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Research and Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom “ Our industry is approaching an inflection point, where increasing infrastructure virtualization will combine with embedded intelligence to deliver more agile services and advanced capabilities to our customers. The O-RAN Alliance is at the forefront of defining the next generation RAN architecture for this transformation. ” — Andre Fuetsch, CTO and President AT&T Labs.

AT&T is a key proponent of O-RAN adoption.  An AT&T employee, who presented on O-RAN at ONF Connect 2019, said the company is seriously evaluating adopting the Alliance’s specifications for 5G deployments sometime in 2020.  AT&T has said that it foresees that it can bring the “whitebox” environment to the RAN by adopting open hardware specifications.

 

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References:

https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/info/media_center/pr/2019/0918_00.html

https://www.o-ran.org/membership

https://www.o-ran.org/specifications

https://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/japans-ntt-docomo-goes-for-gold-wth-multivendor-5g-plans/d/d-id/754206

http://the-mobile-network.com/2019/09/o-ran-scores-twice-as-ntt-docomo-reveals-commercial-multi-vendor-deployment/

http://the-mobile-network.com/2019/03/taking-the-open-ran-commercial/