Published   Wireless Watch

Open RAN architecture set to disrupt 5G landscape

Operator Buying Patterns to 2025

Openness comes to most proprietary technologies, because it is a time honored way of bringing down pricing in any given market. Whether Open RAN concepts emerge in the next 12 months or over the next four years, it will have the same effect.

There are a variety of candidate technologies lining up to Open the RAN, and operators and vendors alike are pulling in multiple directions – but one thing is certain, what emerges from the early years of 5G will change the shape of the cellular industry forever, with the big OEMs mostly hoping to take a traditional and proprietary approach, and operators insisting that they break up the RAN into separate open functions, where every vendor offering can interoperate with every other product. It is this that will re-introduce competition into the cellular market, driving down price points, which are in turn needed so operators can experiment with new business models.

A series of start-ups, exemplar operators and smaller existing equipment vendors are all pushing different varieties of open approaches to the 5G Radio Access Network (RAN).

But today a fully Open RAN platform is a long way off and there are many obstacles in its path, not least of which is the entrenched position and heavy R&D investment of the major OEMs. There are also risks seen by some operators of partnering with an immature and fragmented open solution. But the driver that makes open RAN irresistible is the need for a more competitive multi-vendor approach to drive down costs.

This report lays down a number of scenarios of how open systems will prise open the RAN market – with some adoption likely to some open APIs during 2020, and some scenarios not unfurling until deep into 2025.

In either case, much of the momentum will come from new classes of operators and vendor, addressing under-served areas including the indoor enterprise and industrial IoT.

And these greenfield initiatives will have the opportunity to build a more open, WiFi-like ecosystem based on the open specifications which are being driven aggressively by major operators, via organizations like Facebook TIP and the Linux Foundation-hosted ORAN Alliance.

As we say, the main reason is price. Rethink’s projected deployment cost of a 5G macro cell, shows pricing will fall by 50% from now until 2022 if it is built around an open architecture, whereas it will only fall 30% if it is built in the traditional way.

Ran Research found all this by interviewing 76 tier one operators about their detailed plans for RAN deployments to 2025, and focused in particular on the use of new or open architectures.

These operators say that the top drivers which push them towards open architectures in the RAN are total cost of ownership (TCO), driving price competition, an attempt to wrest control of the technology agenda from vendors, and the desire to access a wider base of innovation than just five major OEMs.

Rethink has laid out 4 distinctly different potential scenarios in detail, showing what will happen in certain architectures gain leadership at key times.

A convergence of commercial imperatives will drive openness and interoperability. Some of these will mainly relate to pressures on the hard-pressed MNOs, to deliver 5G profitably; while others will relate to the new entrants which want to add mobile connectivity to their own business models in the enterprise or cloud.

Who should Buy this Report?

This report is critical to anyone involved in planning to launch a 5G network or any part of a 5G network, who may specify how open that network needs to be, be that by adopting an open API or through interoperability testing, or adherence to one of the emerging candidate open RAN standards. This may be for network providers, technology partners, implementers, equipment suppliers, software providers and investors, at C Suite level down to product marketing and product planning. The RAN Research arm of Rethink Technology Research is essential reading for anyone who wants to stay on top of current trends and thinking among MNOs.  It’s like being a fly on the wall in their planning meetings and is based on questions MNOs have answered about their planned and future expenditure.

This report will;

Give you numbers you can drop directly your planning

It will help you understand who is already supporting the Open Ran standard you are adopting and the market pressures on those players.

It will help you understand timescales for particular approaches.

In particular we have developed a 4 scenario planning tool, whereby we take an assumption and show how this will play out and affect timeframes for various Open Ran approaches.

It will help you construct a Capex plan for Open Ran

Companies mentioned in this report;

Airrays, Airspan, Allot, Altiostar, Amarisoft, Anikowave, ARM, Askey, ASOCS, Athonet, AT&T, Beicells, Ball Aerospace, Bell Labs, Bharti Airtel, British Telecom, China Mobile, China Mobile Research Institute, China Unicom, CHIPS Alliance, Ciena, Cisco, Cloud-RAN Alliance, Comba, Deutsche Telekom, Docomo, Ericsson, Facebook, Fujitsu, HFR, Huawei, H3C, Innoeye, Intel, KDDI, Keysight, KT, Lenovo, Linux Foundation, Mavenir, Metaswitch, NEC, Netcracker, Nokia, NTT, OKI, ORAN Alliance, Orange, Parallel Wireless, Phluido, Pivotal Commware, Quanta, Qualcomm, Radisys, Rakuten, Red Hat, Reliance Jio, Ruckus Wireless, Samsung, Sercomm, Singtel, SK Telecom, Softbank, SOLiD, Sprint, Tech Mahindra, Telefónica, Telstra, TIM, Verizon, Viavi, Vodafone, WiFi Alliance, Xilinx, ZTE.

For more information contact:

Natalia Szczepanek

Client Relations and Marketing Manager

[email protected]

Office phone: +44 (0)1179 257019

Download the Executive Summary:

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Table of Contents 2

Table of Figures 3

Introduction 4

Many forces are driving the mobile industry towards an open RAN 5

The key drivers for an open ecosystem 5

The initiative lies with the operators, old and new 7

Semi-open interfaces of the past have been inadequate 8

Operators look for ways to bypass X2 in 5G 9

CPRI shortcomings have driven push for new fronthaul standard 11

Ethernet alternatives pave way for full openness 13

The economic impact of openness will be seen in all layers of the network 15

Several open initiatives are starting to make the case for the open RAN 18

ORAN Alliance 20

ORAN makes progress with PoC tests 23

Telecom Infra Project 24

Steps to reality for TIP 27

Potential convergence of open groups? 29

Small Cell Forum 30

The Open Air Interface 32

Case studies 34

Telecom Italia works with three new vendors on vRAN 34

Nokia and China Mobile 35

Rakuten claims first cloud-native, multivendor mobile network 36

There are still many barriers in the way of a fully open RAN 38

How will open RAN platforms affect the pattern of 5G deployment? 40

Baseline forecasts for base station deployment 42

Scenario 1 – large-scale adoption from 2022 44

Scenario 2 – at-scale deployment limited to small cell layer 46

Scenario 3 – limited deployment before 2025 50

Scenario 4– limited open ran but agreed to open fronthaul interface 51

Conclusions 53

Methodology 54

RAN Research: Forecasting disruption in wireless 56

About Rethink Technology Research 58

Figure 1. Top drivers to adopt open architectures in the RAN – percentage of operators placing each driver in their top three 8

Figure 2. The role of X2 in 4G/5G interworking 10

Figure 3. The evolution of SK Telecom’s 4G and 5G RAN Source: Netmanias 13

Figure 4. Fronthaul options related to different 3GPP/IEEE functional splits in a disaggregated RAN 14

Figure 5. Projected deployment cost of a 5G macro cell, open vs traditional architecture 16

Figure 6. Primary areas of impact of open architectures on the macro network – percentage of operators placing each factor in their top two 17

Figure 7. Primary areas of impact of open architectures on the small cell network – percentage of operators placing each factor in their top two 18

Figure 8. Selected challengers which are active in the open RAN, and their key relationships with top MNOs. 21

Figure 9. Conceptual architecture of xRAN (now ORAN). Source: xRAN white paper 2016 22

Figure 10. The TIP OpenRAN group 27

Figure 11. Percentage of operators active or interested in each major open mobile network group 31

Figure 12. Top barriers to adopt open architectures in the RAN – percentage of operators placing each barrier in their top three 40

Figure 13. Total deployments and upgrades of macro and micro base stations by region 2018 to 2025, all architectures 44

Figure 14. Total installed base of small cells by region 2018 to 2025, all architectures 45

Figure 15. In Scenario 1, deployments of open macro and micro base stations by region 2020 to 2025 46

Figure 16: In Scenario 2, deployments of open macro and micro base stations 2020-2025 47

Figure 17: In Scenario 2, installed base of open small cells 2020-2025 48

Figure 18: Deployment of open small cells by operator type 2020-2025 49

Figure 19: Deployment of open small cells, indoor vs outdoor 2020-2025 50

Figure 20: In Scenario 3, total installed base of small cells, all architectures 2018-2025 55

Figure 21: In Scenario 4, fronthaul and midhaul links deployed, by architecture 2019-2025 53