O-RAN, VRAN, and the Future of 5G

dave-wright Dave Wright September 3, 2020

5G Bridge GettyImages-481313075The mobile industry movement towards virtualization and open interfaces continues to gain momentum and is garnering growing interest with policymakers around the world. As countries seek to win (or at least place) in the ‘race to 5G’, these technology trends are seen as key policy enablers – along with a strong spectrum strategy. In this blog, I’ll explore some of these issues.

CommScope is closely following two initiatives – 1) mobile network function virtualization (i.e. VRAN, “white boxing,” etc.) and 2) Open Radio Access Network standardization (Open RAN, O-RAN, etc.).

Mobile network function virtualization

Mobile network function virtualization will leverage advancements in software abstraction of former hardware functions, computing power, and cloud systems to transform proprietary hardware in the mobile network core and RAN into software components running on commodity computing platforms (typically based on x86 processor technology). This follows the broader technology trend of the virtualization and ‘cloudification’ of many functions that were formerly handled by vendor proprietary hardware.

Open RAN

Open RAN is an initiative to standardize the communications interfaces between the various components in the Radio Access Network over existing commoditized technologies such as fiber, Ethernet, and TCP/IP. Historically, mobile networks have been deployed using compatible radio network equipment from a single vendor as a “closed” proprietary solution, making it virtually impossible to ‘mix and match’ components from various vendors. Because Open RAN implements standardized interfaces that are truly open and interoperable, and components can be tested and certified to comply with those interfaces, it breaks this vendor lock-in, enabling innovation, creating a more competitive market, and accelerating deployments. Similarly to mobile network function virtualization, O-RAN follows the broader industry trend to standardize communications services (e.g., IBM’s Systems Network Architecture [SNA], voice, video, etc.) over globally common interfaces.

CLICK TO TWEET: CommScope’s Dave Wright sheds some light on O-RAN and VRAN, and how these technologies are poised to impact the networks of the future.

CommScope is a leader in the Open RAN ecosystem through our internal research and development activities and our external participation in standardization efforts via groups like the O-RAN Alliance and advocacy organizations like the Open RAN Policy Coalition.

The United States has long been the global leader in network function virtualization and ‘democratizing’ proprietary interfaces by implementing open standards over common interfaces. In fact, the US led all of the historical examples of virtualization and open interfaces listed above. Given this, it would be logical and natural for the US to lead as these macro industry trends are applied to the mobile industry in the areas of VRAN and O-RAN.

CommScope supports the various government initiatives and legislative proposals to provide federal investment in Open RAN research and development and that would encourage federal agencies to foster the deployment of open and interoperable 5G networks in their various pilot programs and procurement guidelines. This type of government support would accelerate domestic development, helping to secure future US leadership in these key technology fields.

While none of the leading incumbent mobile equipment vendors are US companies, O-RAN enables the possibility of building the overall mobile network from a combination of companies, many being US firms. Rather than having a monolithic solution from a foreign vendor as was done in the past, standardization plus virtualization enables myriad US companies to work in both competition and collaboration to provide a more dynamic, faster, and best-in-breed network to support all of America’s mobile telecommunications needs.

In terms of the economic impacts, both VRAN and O-RAN seek to lower the costs for mobile network operators by transforming proprietary components and communications services and allowing them to run on common computing platforms and network technologies. O-RAN also allows for network operators to ‘mix and match’ RAN components from various vendors, creating a more competitive market for each aspect of the RAN.

For more details on CommScope’s leadership and position on Open RAN, please see our filing in response to NTIA’s Request for Public Comment on The National Strategy to Secure 5G Implementation Plan.

To hear more about Open RAN initiatives in the U.S., tune in to the “Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks” webinar on September 14 hosted by the Federal Communications Commission. Morgan Kurk, chief technology officer at CommScope, will be on a panel addressing the “Benefits of Deployment/Driving Innovation.”

Morgan will also be participating on a panel hosted by AGL Media Group titled “Opening the RAN to Opportunity” on September 23.

About the Author

dave-wright

Dave Wright

Director of Regulatory Affairs & Network Standards