Democratization of RAN
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Evolution of Mobile Networks in defining different generations (example 3G, 4G, etc) has been essentially led by how much improvement is in 3 key parameters a. throughput (bandwidth), b. latency & c. Device density in a coverage area. 5G betters these parameters by a factor of at least 10 – 15 times than its predecessor, 4G.
In Addition to this, the advancements in RAN based 3GPP enhancements (in 5G NR), SDN, rapid improvements in efficiency of compute power, open source virtualization switching platforms, rise of machine learning, AI algorithms and all of this using the open source community, 5G roll-out has set a new level for network planning & design. The enterprise market led by Industry 4.0 developments will have 5G as core to their strategic initiatives.
NGMN Alliance has led the way in providing guidelines on use case & Business Models. The industry wide adoption to consume “Compute & Storage” as a service, may make enterprise customers also seek 5G network (like SD WAN) as a Service. Telecom (or Network) Providers may develop Capacity (RAN) As a Service Model.
All These developments, critical for Telecom providers, do pose some key challenges for Providers to adapt & in doing so are adding a layer of complexity : 1. Network Complexity due to densification of network, 2. Enterprise “sliced” Networks based on SLA commitments”, 3. MULTI RAT environment to address the wide spectrum band range 4. Cloud based operations to provide OPEX benefits. There is also an expectation that it is not enough to provide a “generic” experience on a certain “Cell Site” basis, but to seek level of granularity, which is cell based, or Application based, network slice or UE based. The focus has to move away from a typical “static” Cell Based Planning to a more “Dynamic / programmable” RAN Planning keeping the UE & Applications and how eMbb, urLLC, mmTC services as key focus. 5G networks are essentially being designed to be Open Standard, AI ML based, Service Based Architecture, disaggregration of RAN, based on different options of functional split.
The Current Mobile networks are Typically served by A Single Vendor with their proprietary Network Equipment (like e NodeB) & Management Software (RRM, SON, EMS etc). For 5G due to nature of it being OPEN and some industry leading work being done by standards & specifications by 3GPP, Facebook TIP Forum, O-RAN Alliance, ONF, LNF etc. the Network will change to be a MIX of different potential Cloud based platform with open standards RU, DU & CU functions from mix of Vendors including Wi-Fi, Small Cells. This will make the current SILO driven approach of RRM, SON, EMS working on a Cell basis or a Vendor basis extremely complex, expensive and inefficient.
This ecosystem is poised for a potential overhaul through simplification, open standard based forums, ML based Control & Management platform of the Radio Network. Feel free to share comments, projects executed on open source platforms, and if are interested to codevelop RAN based applications for the open source community.