Open RAN is fast becoming mainstream.
Slowly but surely, Open RAN has taken center stage in the world of virtualized Radio Access Networks (RAN). The number of service providers adopting Open RAN approaches has been steadily increasing every year.
In 2021, mobile network operators (MNOs) tested pilot projects in emerging and rural markets. This year, government funding for R&D programs in the US, Japan, and Europe has been rapidly scaled up to enhance market readiness.
Along with Open RAN adoption methodologies, Tier 1 operational initiatives are also working on digital maturity and network lifecycle management. The telecom industry is on its way to embracing innovations in RAN technologies and prioritizing an advanced, open, and disaggregated network architecture.
With Open RAN, telecom companies can mix and match components designed by different equipment vendors, enhancing interoperability and expanding market competition. It will let network service providers choose high-grade equipment at the best possible prices while reducing business and operational costs.
Global operators are adopting Open RAN
A study by a leading global professional services network found that in 2020, there were an estimated 35 active Open RAN deployments all over the world. Around 75% of these deployments were being rolled out in developing countries and the rest in developed nations. The following global network service providers are among those that have adopted Open RAN solutions to transform their network systems.
Headquartered in Japan, Rakuten was the first telco to implement a fully Open RAN-enabled mobile network successfully. It incurs 40% less capital expenditure as compared to its older and traditional network architecture.
After signing an MoU in early 2021, Telefonica, headquartered in Madrid, said that it would expand its radio network globally, with 50% using Open RAN solutions by 2025.
Abu Dhabi-based multinational telecom services provider Etisalat has partnered with Parallel Wireless to run Open RAN trials in Afghanistan for all mobile generations.
British telecom giant Vodafone has deployed Open RAN sites in several countries where it operates, such as the UK, Ireland, Turkey, and Mozambique.
Significant cost-reduction with Open RAN
Global Tier 1 operators have seen savings of up to 30% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) with Open RAN solutions. The hardware costs of components such as radio units and antennas are expected to be further standardized with the expansion of the market and technological innovation.
The introduction of high-performance and energy-efficient cloud hardware will increase TCO savings. Over the next six years, TCO benefits from Open RAN solutions are expected to go up from 22% to 28%, while savings from virtualized Central Units (vCUs) will rise to 31%.
Analysys Mason estimates that telecom operators could earn as much as $24 billion by the end of 2030 if they adopt Open RAN platforms and services. It would have to include a wide range of industry 4.0 and 5.0 services such as artificial intelligence, manufacturing automation, and robotics.
Open RAN enables better network services.
Some of the top benefits of deploying Open RAN solutions are cost efficiency, network service agility, and flexibility in supply chain management. These benefits drive better network services for end-users. Operators can offer 5G services across various consumer bases and industry verticals using Open RAN capacities, such as network slicing, ultra-low latency, as well as advanced technologies like edge computing.
Open RAN can also play an instrumental role in improving access to better broadband connectivity and transforming governmental services through virtualization or nuanced digitization.
Adopting Open RAN solutions can significantly reduce operational complexity and expenditures with the help of zero-touch automation that pre-empts system crises and enables automated performance optimizations.