Thinking differently, as to how to solve network operators’ dilemma of how to modernise existing infrastructure, roll out the latest and greatest, launch greenfield sites and prepare for even more developments in the not too distant future, wireless infrastructure company, Parallel Wireless, shares some important considerations about OpenRAN – the potential panacea for the future growth and sustainability of the global telecoms industry.
Before we get to the reasons why every MNO today should be incorporating OpenRAN into their business strategy going forward, a quick reminder as to what OpenRAN is – the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) defines OpenRAN as “an initiative to define and build 2G, 3G and 4G RAN [Radio Access Network] solutions based on general-purpose vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology”.
Simply put, operators can now choose who and what they need to fulfil their particular network requirements, including 5G, at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods by deploying open architecture components.
The benefits of deploying OpenRAN
Several challenges need to be overcome for operators across the globe, but especially in Africa, to keep up with the fast-paced evolution of the communications sector and connect not only existing users but new ones too. Here’s how these challenges can be overcome and the benefits that deploying OpenRAN can bring:
1. OpenRAN is software-defined, making a disaggregation of hardware and software possible.
2. As a result of the open nature of the solution, interoperability is, therefore, a reality.
3. Networks are Futureproofed – there is no longer a need to rip and replace infrastructure, as quick and efficient upgrades are a simple update of the software and without the need to be on-site as it can all be handled remotely.
4. Network automation happens, which makes deployment easy and maintenance automated.
5. Scalable and agile – OpenRAN puts software at the centre of the network and delivers elastic scalability across all network components enabling access, transport and core to run as apps and services, not, vertical silos. The software approach also provides the agility for operators to deliver faster network deployments, high throughput and there are no capacity or coverage limits. This affords MNOs the ability to meet coverage and capacity demands for the end-user experience.
Underpinning all of the above and possibly the number one challenge to an MNO’s sustainability is the cost of keeping old systems going and the deployment of new infrastructure. This is where OpenRAN truly shines.
Cost-saving – Network economics are significantly improved by converging ‘ALL G’, including 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, on to one unified software platform. This eliminates the need for operators to maintain siloed legacy networks dedicated to just one G service and results in CAPEX being reduced by up to 60 per cent, while OPEX can expect to see a reduction of 65 per cent. Analysts also predict that deployment cost using open architecture will fall by 50 per cent or more by 2022, whereas traditional means will only show a 30 per cent decline. This 20 per cent difference will also drive the overall TCO down.
Through bringing 4G and 5G capabilities to the party, like low latency, network slicing, RAN and Core sharing, MNOs can provide differentiated services to their 2G/3G/4G/5G end-users and verticals, resulting in new revenue opportunities and faster return on investment.
Using Parallel Wireless’s real-time SON, operators can deploy solutions in a matter of hours instead of days, and without using complex planning tools. SON will also enable self-optimisation of the networks, lessening the need to physically go-to site.
Lux Maharaj, Director: Africa Sales at Parallel Wireless sums it up, “There have been a number of high-level global summits and discussions of late, all geared towards finding ways and means of ensuring Africa takes its place in the conversation around 4IR. Connectivity is at the base of all these conversations and through a shift in mindset and the use of OpenRAN, we can make all these conversations a reality”.
Much like how open-source software disrupted and revolutionised the computer programming sector, OpenRAN has the ability to embrace a broader set of values and operating efficiencies where everyone can benefit. As such, it should be top of mind for all MNOs.