Open RAN Predictions: What to Expect in 2023

Oren Todoros   November 14, 2022

Summary

Over the next year, the telecoms industry is going to see a huge amount of innovation, driven by developments such as telco and hyperscaler convergence, the introduction of 5G standalone, the wider adoption of open RAN and new applications and services designed for the network edge. These are the trends and topics that need to be covered in this post.

The technology race for delivering 5G across the globe is on, with a total investment of more than $1.9tn in the next 5 years. The total investment is frequently challenged by economic analysts as the 5G ROI model is not yet fully clear. One of the key factors in getting the ROI to match the CSPs (Communication Service Providers) expectations, is to free the RAN (Radio Access Network) from its current vendor lock-in.

Will 2023 be the year of the free RAN? This depends on two non-profit organizations that are collaborating to come up with standards and validation testing for new RAN solutions – O-RAN and Open RAN.

O-RAN ALLIANCE is a worldwide community of mobile operators, vendors, and research & academic institutions with the mission to reshape Radio Access Networks to be more intelligent, open, virtualized, and fully interoperable. Open RAN is a group within TIP (a nonprofit organization made of a mixture of leading Operators, Vendors, and Consultants, that has taken on the huge task of disaggregating the network) that accelerate the development of disaggregated and interoperable 2G/3G/4G/5G NR Radio Access Network (RAN) solutions based on service provider requirements. The two bodies have different tasks – O-RAN is writing the specifications while the Open RAN validates the solutions. The collaboration between O-RAN and Open RAN seems to be on the right track, and in the latest FYUZ event that TIP hosted in late October, O-RAN even took a key role in the event.

Fyuz

The Open RAN team was very busy during 2022 laying the foundations to accommodate the validation of coming solutions from the different vendors. They issued several documents describing proposed validation tests and set up a community lab for doing the actual validation tests.

So what can we expect from Open RAN in 2023? 

A stream of vendors will go through the Open RAN lab and get their solution certified. But this is not the end of the story – in fact, it’s just the beginning. Many leading CSPs are deeply involved in both O-RAN and Open RAN activities in order to align the specifications and the solutions to match their requirements. Many of these CSPs established their own field trials and labs, to test the proposed solutions. So 2023 is going to be the year of validation for Open RAN – by both TIP and the CSPs. The validation is going to be not only for the technology solutions but also to the economy of scale when the solutions will be widely deployed. We are already seeing RFIs and RFQs issued by CSPs to understand better what is out there and how much it costs.

Like any new technology that is out there, there are always people that may say that the current status is not ideal. In a light reading article, Morris Lore state that “Open RAN is falling a long way short of its promise”. The main argument is whether RU or DU elements can be “plug & play” replacements between different vendors. The leading industry vendors for the RAN equipment who might be affected by such technologies say it will never be possible. However, many start-ups have come up with impressive solutions that can make it happen.

Will there be deployments of Open RAN in 2023? 

As some of the PoC (Proof of Concept) was already done in 2022 by the more advanced CSPs, the expectation is that Open RAN will be deployed in the new 5G deployments in parallel to the existing 4G networks. This overlay Structure seems to be the best way for CSPs who gradually want to deploy the 5G networks with no interruption to the current service.

5G-Networks

The leading CSPs have got their plan together and already announced their goals:

  1. Vodafone aims for massive MIMO in open RAN by March 2023
  2. DT preps ‘multivendor’ open RAN rollout starting in 2023
  3. Virgin Media O2 dips its toes into Open RAN with 4G deployment

We, at Parallel Wireless, are offering a unified ALL G (5G/4G/3G/2G) software-enabled solution. Our innovation and excellence in multi-technology, open virtualized RAN solutions, have been recognized with 65+ industry awards. Our customers include 50+ leading CSPs worldwide and we recently named as a “best performing vendor”.

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