The Inextricable Link Between Openness and Innovation for Mobile Networks

In the language of mobile networking, the word “open” often describes open-source code, which means commercially free and accessible to all. Open RAN, on the other hand, is less about free and much more about innovation.

To meet the growing demands of consumers and achieve the true potential of 5G, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) want and need to incorporate openness and innovation into the mobile network. However, the Open RAN framework cannot just be a build-it-and-they-will-come proposition. While the cost benefits of Open RAN may be significant, its success as a compelling alternative to traditional RAN is inextricably linked to the velocity of innovation it offers.

The Value of Innovation for All Stakeholders 

Innovation has the potential to positively impact every group within the mobile industry.

The end-user ultimately reaps the benefits of innovation since it dramatically impacts the user experience – new apps, faster service, high availability, low latency, and exciting future services yet to be conceived. In addition, innovation offers CSPs the ability to generate new, profitable revenues from a differentiated service offering.

For the industry at large, openness and innovation together forge a new and better way forward in a business that has experienced the perfect storm of lower ARPU from the unquenchable thirst for data, together with higher OPEX and CAPEX.

Fostering Innovation Through Collaboration

In his article, Ron McFarland cites examples when openness has been the key to innovation throughout history, indicating that “innovation happens when someone creates a community while working on a problem…(and) through concurrent community collaboration, that group might make discoveries that lead to an innovation.”

One perfect example of innovation through community collaboration is crowdsourcing, which has been wildly successful in various industries from both a business and marketing perspective (see Starbucks white cup design contest) and on the technology development front (see WAZE navigation app).  When we think about Open RAN and Open APIs, we can make an analogy to crowdsourcing, albeit within the critical parameters of telecom industry standards and best practices.

Overcoming Barriers to Innovation in the Mobile Network

Without openness and collaboration, barriers to innovation emerge. The network operator version of the Innovators Dilemma rears its ugly head when incumbent, closed network vendors are too consumed to innovate because of the demands of their existing customers. The consequence of vendor lock-in for mobile network infrastructure is a much smaller community to develop solutions that could lower network cost, improve performance, and provide a richer set of capabilities to users to elevate the customer experience.

Vendor lock-in impedes the digital transformation evolution strategy to cloud-native, disaggregated, and software-based multiservice delivery that telcos must go through to stay relevant and profitable.

On the other hand, open innovation is the freedom to execute big ideas, and CSPs need plenty of them to compete with the over-the-top providers and the massive cloud companies.

Enabling the Network of the Future with Open Innovation

One example of how open innovation helps CSPs is having artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and analytics available to innovators through intelligent algorithms throughout the RAN. Analytics-powered network automation enables the quick rollout of differentiated services and granular control to tap new opportunities, such as Security-as-a-Service and zero-touch private mobile networks with industry vertical automation support using Edge AI.

With new entrants into the mobile ecosystem and unfettered collaboration, we don’t know all the use cases yet to emerge, but the possibilities are exciting. But one thing is sure: openness breeds opportunity, opportunity breeds innovation, and innovation breeds intrinsic value for consumers.

Learn more about Mavenir’s AI and Analytics solutions that enable collaborative innovation.

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