Cloud-Native All G Open RAN is Imperative for African MNOs – Here’s Why

Parallel Wireless   June 8, 2022

Stories about 5G are dominating the news cycle around the globe. For Africa’s Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), however, readying their networks to launch 5G services is further into the future. Their present-day reality is that the market demands they continue running 2G and 3G networks for at least the next several years.

The high cost of 4G and 5G devices coupled with the low spending capability of the subscribers means that MNOs need to continue offering 2G and 3G services and that 2G continues to be relevant. In fact, nearly six million 2G devices are sold every year in Africa, and 14 million users still use 2G devices. Meanwhile, only 10% of Africa’s population uses 4G, even though half is covered by a 4G signal, says a recent report by Vodafone (PDF).

rural African woman
Running 2G and 3G legacy networks results in high operating expenses (OPEX), while Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) continues to be low. Additionally, the need to run multi-technology networks (multi-RAT), including 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G, increases network complexity and raises the cost of managing multiple Gs. Traditional 2G voice-only and broadband 3G and 4G are heavy and hardware-centric, demanding high capital expenditure (CAPEX) and OPEX to deploy and operate. They also consume more energy, require large storage spaces, and make upgrading networks challenging and costly for MNOs.

Added to this is the tremendous pressure on African MNOs to address these network challenges amid the heightened need for a robust and reliable digital infrastructure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a greater urgency to connect the unconnected. So, what are MNOs in Africa to do?

Cloud-Native Architecture for Reliability and Lower TCO

We can see that legacy networks make it challenging for MNOs to bridge the digital divide and expand the benefits of connectivity. This is where cloud-native All G Open RAN can help Africa’s MNOs to scale quickly and cost-effectively while maintaining the same level of services. The open compute model can enable MNOs to move away from proprietary hardware to open network architecture.

Software-based cloud-native Open RAN that supports ALL Gs (that is 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G) is quickly emerging as an ideal solution to expand connectivity to more people while keeping costs under control. With a futureproof cloud-native architecture, MNOs can reconfigure legacy 2G and 3G networks to support newer communications standards such as 4G and 5G through software upgradability when the time is right for their networks.

A Closer Look at 2G

When we take a closer look at 2G in particular, a virtualized solution helps support the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) as it provides a scalable and software upgradable virtual base station (BTS) and Base Station Controller (BSC), using a virtualized aggregator function. CAPEX and OPEX are better controlled, as virtualized 2G doesn’t require cooling and is known to consume much less power compared to traditional networks.

One of the most crucial aspects of a cloud-native All G Open RAN solution is that MNOs’ investments become futureproof. Offering services based on the latest communications standards simply requires a software upgrade. As such, MNOs can cost-effectively migrate to, 4G, and 5G when their market is ready for newer standards.

With software-powered cloud-native Open RAN, self-optimization and self-healing of sites located in remote and difficult-to-reach areas helps further reduce OPEX. The cloud-native approach is suitable for different deployment scenarios, greenfield deployments, or when the MNO wants to expand or modernize the existing network.

Why Cloud-Native All G Open RAN is the Answer for African MNOs

Cloud-native Open RAN allows unification of all Gs on one platform, thus simplifying the network and reducing the total ownership cost to build, upgrade, and maintain. It also enables MNOs to enhance network efficiency as they can deliver 2G, 3G, 4G, and the ultra-high-speed and extremely low latency required by 5G. An All G Open RAN solution allows them to address the needs of all kinds of customers, from a 2G customer to a 5G subscriber.

In summary, adopting a cloud-native approach to deploy and manage networks benefits MNOs in a variety of ways, including network scalability, flexibility, faster time-to-market, and reduced CAPEX and OPEX. Connectivity is crucial, and Africa’s MNOs can realize their goals with a cloud-native All G Open RAN network strategy to quickly expand 2G networks or run multi-RAT networks while future-proofing their investments to move to newer communications standards such as 4G and 5G as the market matures.


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