Open RAN: Catalyzing 5G Use Case Innovations

The mobile radio access network (RAN), comprising of base stations and antennas deployed on rooftops, towers, utility poles, and the backhaul transport infrastructure, connects billions of users worldwide and supports a trillion-dollar market in mobile services. All these signify an obvious success of the RAN market structure in the transition period to 5G.


As a matter of fact, what emerges from the early years of 5G will change the shape of the cellular industry and bring it to the next level. As 5G matures and overtakes LTE, operators must be able to meet the latency-sensitive requirement of new 5G use cases; for example, video buffering is caused by the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) not adapting fast enough to varying radio conditions. Edge technology dodges these video streaming issues by communicating to the video server the best bit rate for the given radio conditions. This reduces the buffering time of the device’s video stream.


Pushing the innovation envelope for commercial use 

When it comes to connecting devices to the network, wireless has obviously won. Consider optimizing operations and running accurate, predictive behaviour analysis of potentially billions of connected IoT devices to support extreme network automation and reduce operational costs, it requires huge computing capabilities at the edge and thus, is essential to be executed in Edge Clouds.


The new open RAN architecture, which is software-defined, unbundled, programmable, and flexible, can meet the requirements for enhanced mobile broadband and ultra-low latency. It supports 5G network slicing, enabling the creation of multiple virtual networks from a single shared infrastructure to support specific use cases for dynamic and large-scale networks, such as a highly scalable wireless surveillance system based on the edge network.


In healthcare, telemedicine would gain crucial bandwidth with 5G, as reliability, low-latency and security are crucial for emergency services. Remote diagnosis over video link and the ability to carry out surgical procedures across a 5G network using robotic instruments will become more of a reality. Wearable sensors for patient monitoring will also be integrated within the IoT capability within 5G.


For large enterprises and campus networks, edge computing resolves high latency issues and allows copious employees or students to have simultaneous access to the company’s or institution’s Intranet, enabling mass trainings without halting network speed.


In a business perspective, disaggregation in 5G paves the way to advance Open RAN deployments that allow operators to truly open up within the Radio Access Network and accelerate innovation. This opens up huge opportunities for IoT innovation and commercial use, from driverless cars, drones, artificial intelligence, robotics and remote-controlled machinery, and virtual and augmented reality, giving businesses at the forefront of creating and using such technologies a competitive advantage.


Given the need to support connectivity for private networks, public venues and stadiums, dense urban environments and more, operators show preference for more open networks where they can have more flexibility to launch unique types of services. The Open RAN architecture gives a service creation environment that realizes the more advanced 5G use cases in specific sectors, and supports the modernization and digital transformation of many industries including connected robotics, industry 4.0, smart agriculture, and smart cities.


Benefits from the “openness” 

Operators’ infrastructure is already undergoing a gradual transformation towards applications running on a generic platform, that is Network functions virtualization (NFV). They now insist to break up the RAN into separate open functions, where every vendor offering can interoperate with every other product. This will re-introduce competition into the cellular market, driving down price points, and so allowing operators to experiment with new business models.


As the Open RAN architecture is being built on open principles to achieve the benefits of cloud scale economics and service agility, new vertical markets with private networks or IoT platforms will require a multitude of small- and medium-sized innovators in a more empowered ecosystem to make things possible. This evolution has primarily been driven from a cost rationalization perspective, but it is also important to focus on attracting innovation and new revenue opportunities on top of the infrastructure.


A mobile industry survey indicated that transportation, including freight and logistics, is the key sector that will benefit the most from 5G rollout. While augmented reality adopted by the manufacturing sector, will also open up further opportunities for digital twins and remote maintenance, for example. Retail businesses will be able to benefit from connected smart parking allocation systems, which will help encourage more potential customers into urban areas, which is similar to the successful technology used in Los Angeles. With this improved connectivity, smart system could become far more widespread.


The O-RAN Alliance leverages deep learning techniques to embed intelligence in the RAN architecture to automate operational network functions, optimize network-wide efficiency and reduce OPEX. This AI-powered radio control will help drive more new use cases for mobile RAN from private networks, to ultra-dense urban deployments and low-cost coverage, taking a step further to launch 5G commercially around the world.


About Marie Ma

Marie Ma is currently the general manager of Comba Telecom Network Systems Limited. Ms. Ma is responsible for overseeing the strategies and development of the new solutions and product marketing. She graduated from Tsinghua University with a master degree in Information & Communications Engineering in 2007 and a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering &Automation in 2004. Ms. Ma has wide experience in product management, technical marketing and business development. She joined the Group in 2007.

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