Open RAN: Treasures, Opportunities, and Challenges
In the age-old tale “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” the secret code words “Open Sesame” and “Close Sesame” gave access to a variety of treasures stored in a hidden cave by 40 thieves, which in the end made Ali Baba and his family very rich. The key challenges in this story were learning and remembering the secret codes, understanding the risk around the time to enter and exit the cave, and engaging with the right collaborators to succeed.
Opening the radio access network (RAN) is an important initiative and has propelled the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill dedicating $750 million over the next decade to support the development of Open RAN solutions. Due to the complexity of the RAN, it is clear many collaborators will emerge.
The analogy of the hidden cave relates to how opening the RAN will allow service providers to reveal a variety of treasures, enrich the RAN ecosystem, and continue to find new ways to innovate. And there will be challenges and risks as new collaborators join this ecosystem to pursue successful innovation. How will service providers embrace this change?
Bruce Kelley, chief technology officer and senior vice president at NETSCOUT, distills the notion of what it means to open the RAN in terms of treasures, opportunities, and challenges.
Treasures: An Open RAN environment will lead to improved service and network performance for new technologies such as 5G, 6G, and beyond, allowing participants to realize the following:
- Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
- Improved flexibility
- Reduced expenses
- A better user experience
Opportunities: Service providers who choose to actively participate in opening the RAN can achieve innovation by:
- Maintaining a foundational ecosystem of new offerings for multiple vendors
- Retraining and recruiting multidisciplinary talents
- Building the right infrastructure to lead to greater innovation
- Adapting governance to upgrade existing frameworks and processes
- Lowering barriers to entry and improving competition
Challenges: Opening the RAN will present challenges, because the RAN market is relatively siloed. Participants in this new ecosystem will have to consider:
- Vendor interoperability
- Universal governing standards
- Increased surface attacks
Many issues may arise from opening the RAN with regards to adapting existing frameworks, processes, and governance to support more interoperability and an open environment to integrate multiple vendor offerings. A poorly configured RAN can cause a multitude of issues. Partnering with NETSCOUT at the onset can ensure you develop a proactive end-through-end visibility plan for service assurance so that communication and decision-making are always top priorities.
Agnes Mends-Crentsil is a product marketing manager on NETSCOUT’s Technical Marketing team.