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The Evolution of Open RAN

Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) is a concept that involves the interoperability of open hardware, software, and interfaces for cellular wireless networks.  

“The Evolution of Open RAN” provides a comprehensive update on work from leading Open RAN standards bodies with an emphasis on application and microservices development in modern wireless cellular networks. The paper also examines how cloudification of Open RAN is providing opportunities in scalability of network functions for operators.

The paper examines how architectural considerations may include network disaggregation and functional splits, hybrid vs. hierarchical management plane (M-plane), RAN cloudification and virtualization, and services-based architecture for RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller) functions. Additionally, it examines how operators will have different Open RAN needs based on their own requirements for TCO savings, performance considerations, and brownfield vs greenfield deployments.

Some key topics surrounding evolving Open RAN standards in this 5G Americas report include:

  • Open RAN and goals
  • Principles of O-RAN, architectural considerations
  • Operator trials and deployments
  • Operational considerations and integration challenges
  • Advantages and challenges with Open RAN architectures
  • O-RAN use-case realization using AI/ML
  • Interface service models for AI/ML-enabled xApp design in Near-RT RIC
  • Advanced learning algorithms for xApp and rApp development in the non-RT RIC

Open RAN offers potentially new capabilities in network performance, end-user experience and service level assurances for enterprises.

Executive Summary

This paper provides an update to 5G Americas 2020 white paper Transition Toward Open and Interoperable Networks on the recent advancements in Open Radio Access Network (RAN) standards and the evolution in Open RAN trials and deployments. More specifically, it focuses on:

  • Interoperability offered by Open RAN systems – Dealing with open interfaces between different network functions, so as to achieve multi-vendor interoperability and coexistence.
    • Related recent enhancements in the Open RAN standardization process, such as the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project
  • Scalability in Open RAN systems – Dealing with cloudification of O-RAN
    • Related recent enhancements in virtualization and cloudification of O-RAN network functions, and cloud-native RAN deployments
    • Perspectives from brownfield and greenfield operators
  • Performance offered by Open RAN systems:
    • The role of artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), reinforcement learning and analytics in realizing Open RAN use cases
    • Enhancements in the standardization of RAN Intelligence Controller (RIC) functions.

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