Open vRAN in Mobile Telecom

Saturday August 21, 2021

In today’s IT, the edge cloud is the go-to medium that converges promising technology trends like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud, and 5G into solutions that provide greater value than their sum. In telecommunication circles, open vRAN (virtual Radio Access Networks) is an area in 5G networking that seems to be gaining momentum.

Open vRAN is emerging as the baseline to enable telecom companies to use standard technologies from the cloud side to build up the Points of Presence they require for each regional Radio Access Network or RAN.

We’ll be exploring the implications of this and looking at some Open vRAN initiatives currently underway in the telecom sector.

RAN Evolves To vRAN

A radio access network (RAN) is part of a mobile network that connects end-user devices, such as smartphones, to the cloud. The RAN mechanism sends information as radio waves from end-user devices to transceivers, transmitting data to the core network and connecting to the global internet.

With virtualized radio access networks (vRANs), RAN functions don’t require special proprietary hardware to run. Instead, this virtualization enables telecom operators to run their baseband functions as the software on standard servers. The list of technologies that they can call upon includes:

  • Virtualization technologies like OpenStack / KVM and VMware
  • Traditional network services such as DNS and DHCP
  • Virtual gateways (PGW) that can run as Virtual Machines (VMs) on these platforms
  • Open source orchestrators such as Ansible or SALT Stack
  • Using virtualized network functions (VNFs) at the network’s edge, vRAN increases business agility with network elasticity, flexibility, and dynamic RAN optimization.

    Mobile telecom operators can use the open architecture of Open vRAN to support the different network characteristics demanded by various user applications. In addition, virtualization provides the flexibility and intelligence that enable mobile network operators to quickly adapt the software and automate, rapidly scaling the network.

    Virtualized Services For Mobile RAN Deployment At The Edge

    In telecommunications, the RAN edge is outside the network core and closer to the end-user. Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) allows many RAN deployments to become virtualized. For example, 5G RAN incorporates virtualization and edge computing into its infrastructure.

    Once the edge clouds are there and vRANs are up and running, several business value possibilities open up for telecom operators. Such as extending the edge clouds to function as platforms for various vertical-specific solutions. Finally, companies can leverage the same edge cloud infrastructure for enhanced economies.

    With a 5G RAN being run from the same edge cloud data center as the industry-specific vertical solutions, stakeholders can benefit from the extremely low latency 5G provides. In addition, this architecture could eliminate the need for companies to build edge data centers for themselves. Instead, they use the edges provided by the telecom providers through ultra-fast 5G connections.

    A scenario like this would benefit both users and telecom providers alike. Providers would benefit from the scalability and versatility of Open vRAN technologies. Customers could enjoy the benefits of a single-stop shop for ultra-fast connectivity between their sites and edge cloud computing resources.

    Open vRAN Initiatives And The Way Ahead

    In the US, Verizon says that it has launched commercial vRAN, including virtual Distributed Unit (vDU) and virtual Centralized Unit (vCU) functions using standard off-the-shelf hardware. The company cites the disaggregation of baseband software from the underlying hardware, deployment at scale, and ease of management as principal factors driving this decision.

    Virtualized RAN is the fastest-growing area of cloud investment for operators, according to a new report by Analysys Mason. They also predict spending to reach $11 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate of 132%.

    Open vRAN solutions will allow mobile telecom operators to start designing new and high-value services. They will also enhance the customer experience and foster a more connected relationship with consumers as more personalized services emerge with 5G.

    FusionLayer helps mobile telecom service providers in automating processes that touch networks. We accomplish this with cutting-edge technologies (Edge, DHCP, SD-IPAM, etc.) that function as the unified management system for all network-related information.

    If you’d like to know more, then get in touch with us.