With 5G, network operators are looking for every way possible to expedite bringing high-speed, reliable 5G connections to their users. To help improve the pace of deployments, several network operators, including AT&T, joined forces as the ORAN Alliance to start driving a new radio network architecture into the roadmaps of suppliers that would help the operators gain faster access to new capabilities that enable new business opportunities.
Unlike prior attempts to create similar open radio architectures, which did not fully succeed in getting everyone on board, the effort being led by ORAN Alliance is seeing high participation from equipment vendors and operators, resulting in real progress, and the collaborative efforts are beginning to demonstrate the goals of the alliance.
One of the outcomes of this industry-wide, global carrier-led effort is the creation of an architecture that uses open interfaces on white-box equipment. The open nature of the connectivity between the networked components is essential to service providers, as it will allow them to select the best-in-breed products that meet their particular service and business requirements. With these open interfaces, network operators also hope that competition between the vendors can help them reduce their capital expenses.
Open RAN community is sure to be glad to see the recent announcement from AT&T about successful testing in their 5G Lab in Redmond, WA. In case you missed it, the success points to successful calls using eCPRI, which is one of the new protocols in the radio access network that connects the radio equipment with the baseband processing.
What does the AT&T announcement mean to the industry and you as a user?
In short, the message to the industry is that success is now coming! The announcement confirms a step needed towards unlocking the traditional RAN and finding new ways to increase throughput and network capacity to support the new applications promised by 5G. One other important component here is identifying the two network equipment providers involved in the testing – Nokia and Samsung Electronics of America, which is a great sign indicating that the vendor community is aligning with the Open RAN architecture.
As a user, you are probably wondering what the big deal is about making a call. Well, a simple call might not be as exciting today; the real benefit you should focus on is the pending availability of high bandwidth 4G and 5G services in areas where access to these services are traditionally tricky. Though it will depend on the investment plans of carriers, the cost benefits promised through the milestone will motivate carriers to bring new enhanced broadband services to more people at more places.
While this progress is positive, it is worth noting that these announcements are acknowledging the successful demonstration of foundational principles that the industry will use to augment the standards. It will take some time before we will see the mass market effects of Open RAN architecture.
Regardless, this innovation certainly indicates faster momentum towards and adoption of the open architecture, and we congratulate all in the ecosystem involved for their dedication to completing this outstanding achievement.