Open RAN the Game-Changer for the Telecommunications Industry
The telecom industry has been in existence for approximately 30 years, during which, it has adhered to a ‘single-vendor per geography’ policy across multiple generations of technology. These policies were followed due to the challenges associated with learning proprietary technologies, navigating rigid OSS systems, and keeping pace with vendors’ roadmaps. In previous generations, high rates of subscriber growth justified the investment required to swap vendors. However, with growth rates declining, Communication Service Providers (CSPs) must now consider mixing and matching vendors within a given geography in-order to foster innovation and create opportunities for new vendors. Advancements in AI and automation make this strategy not only feasible, but potentially highly effective.
In brownfield environments, implementing modern technology and business models is not just a matter of technological or commercial feasibility. There is also the issue of the CSPs traditional mindset and existing closed vendor interfaces that hinder progress. Sadly, CSPs are used to deploying a single-vendor in each geographic area (e.g., a city, state, region, or country) due to closed interfaces that result in a monopolized deployment. For instance, the entire state of Texas might be given to one network infrastructure provider while another could be given the entire state of Oklahoma. Interoperability between traditional network infrastructure providers (such as Ericsson and Nokia) is limited to Core interworking while RAN handovers and interworking is not used between vendors even though 3GPP has defined standards for such interworking such as X2, Xn, and Split 2. This traditional approach limits competition and innovation, making it difficult for new players to enter the market. In some cases, even if a consumer drove from Texas to Oklahoma, the handover between vendors may not work. As a result of these constraints, existing suppliers have monopolized their hold on the market and, in some circumstances, have maintained their market share from 2G to 3G to 4G and now 5G. If traditional network infrastructure providers could interoperate seamlessly to offer the performance benefits and cost efficiencies, then Open RAN vendors like Mavenir would easily integrate with them and offer the same benefits and more. Industry is now almost 30 years old. With all the advancements in automation and AI, I believe it is time for the industry to evolve legacy mindset and best practices.
To bring in a new vendor, the CSP must swap the existing vendor for all equipment generations. As the complexity and the cost increases, there is a tremendous entry cost for a new vendor, and as a result, the whole market is static if we ignore swaps due to geopolitical issues. Financing existing vendor swaps and working capital is a tricky proposition with our balance sheet. However, with recent advancements, it is now possible to offer competitive products at a competitive price for new sites that brownfield CSPs want to build.
Open RAN is a game-changer for the telecommunications industry, allowing for unprecedented flexibility and agility in optimizing network performance and user experience. Enabling multi-vendor operation while supporting all capabilities possible with traditional RAN, will allow CSPs to leverage equipment from new vendors and provide innovative solutions that deliver higher network performance. Disaggregating the RAN and standardizing the various interfaces enables operators to benefit from the innovation and availability of radio from multiple vendors to interface with the RAN entities. This is great news for both new and existing players in the industry.
With Open RAN, CSPs can gain market share through innovation and better performance, without the need for costly regional swaps. And in situations where extra capacity is needed in a specific area, a new vendor can be brought in without requiring a complete overhaul of all sites across an entire city or state. The potential benefits of Open RAN are genuinely exciting. With AI and automation mechanisms embedded tightly with the RAN functions to optimize network performance, the possibilities for delivering cutting-edge solutions are limitless. The future of telecommunications is here, and it is looking brighter than ever before.