OpenRAN is Africa’s answer to dealing with legacy hardware and is ideally positioned for 5G and all future renditions. Here’s why, according to Lux Maharaj, Director: Africa Sales at Parallel Wireless.
While the world is all abuzz about the advent of 5G, Africa is still for the most part, getting to grips with older versions of the communications G-force revolution. Yet, the continent needs to prepare, because like it or not, it’s coming.
In general, Africa is slightly behind in technology – when operators in the west decommission their infrastructure, they often sell to Africa for a reduced cost for example. Consequently, a lot of kit in Africa is really old and it consumes vast amounts of power (and reliable cost effective power is a problem for many across the vast spaces of the continent). This means that African mobile network operators (MNOs) currently deploy a mix of 2G, 3G and 4G network solutions.
An added complication to embracing the latest and greatest network offering, is that Radio Access Network (RAN) hardware and software, has to date, been locked into specific network technologies. To provide new networks to supply the growing demand from users for the latest and greatest, the old infrastructure has needed to be ripped and replaced – a costly exercise that has made many an operator, think twice about deploying new Gs. 5G will be no different if traditional mindsets prevail.
But fear of missing out (FOMO), losing clients, and the fact that conventionally, RAN hardware technology currently comprises approximately 60% of CAPEX and OPEX, has all led to much needed innovation in this space. The result is OpenRAN.
Reimagining the network
OpenRAN is a complete solution for network providers – across the spectrum.
OpenRAN affords MNOs the opportunity to think differently about how they adapt to current and future communication needs and their requisite upgrades.
Thinking differently, is Parallel Wireless’s OpenRAN solution, a unified, cloud native, software-defined architecture across RAN, transport, and Core, to reduce the cost and deployment complexity for today’s and tomorrow’s, network deployments for consumers and industries.
By disaggregating hardware and software, and virtualising network functions on OpenRan controllers, the deployment cost is vastly reduced, and maintenance is simplified. Further, OpenRAN solves interoperability and does away with the traditional silo approach to networking.
If this was not enough to make operators and vendors sit up and take notice, then consider that analysts predict that the costs for legacy vendors, due to siloed and non-interoperability, will cost a whole lot more OPEX (which is much higher than initial CAPEX,) if OpenRAN is not deployed in the future.
Investment Protection for Operators
vRAN (virtual Radio Access Network) virtualises the hardware-based base station – turning the system into a software driven solution. The problem though, is that traditionally, vRAN is still operated via proprietary hardware and interfaces. The same problem then – locked into specific vendors and a siloed approach.
OpenRAN resolves this by ensuring that any vendor software can work with the RAN’s hardware, being ‘Open’ is the key for any virtualised RAN to delivery cost savings.
It is extremely important that networks aren’t locked into relationships with specific vendors, so they can choose the best product at the best price to suit their current and future, needs. In the long-term, this will lead to a significant lowering of not only operational costs, but increased performance along with many benefits for the end user. This will keep them happy and coming back for more. That’s how business works in the new world where there is variety and choice.
Plug and play – in a nutshell, the secret to OpenRAN lies in the fact that operators do not need to rely on sending to optimise the network – it is automated. Operators simply plug in the radio and hey presto, it’s up and running, immediately.
The other key to OpenRAN is the use of a highly functional general purpose processor (GPP), which is enabled to use a wide variety of different RAN software solutions, instead of a single purpose processor (SPP). GPP then allows for one set of hardware that can be upgraded at will, as the software makes it smart.
Parallel Wireless’s OpenRAN controllers allow telecom providers to run multiple Gs through one architecture at the same time. An intelligent, cloud native unified architecture across All-Gs, easily upgradeable to 5G and beyond, and is standardised across five key domains – RAN, Edge, Core, Orchestration and Analytics.
The software driven approach, and particularly the open model we are talking but here, is such a powerful tool in the operators box, especially as it also affords a simple software upgrade for radios, where today they told to be 2G and tomorrow 4G and so on (as long as the operator uses the same frequency for both).
With OpenRAN, operators can also trial new products with their user bases. Think about computer operating packages of old that would need to be bought in their entirety, no matter if the enterprise or individuals using the system needed the full suite or not. These days, there’s an array of product to choose from so it’s become easier to bolt on what is required in the moment.
This same principle applies to operators looking to upgrade their network and means that telecoms providers can simultaneously use OpenRAN to provide 4G and 5G to urban customers, and 2G or 3G to those in less dense areas, at a fraction of the cost of setting up separate stand-alone towers.
Further, OpenRAN facilitates the use of services when there is no network coverage, provided the device is connected to a Wi-Fi output. This then allows operators to focus on creating and delivering a plethora of services for the ever app and data-hungry consumer to use.
Lastly, OpenRAN is secure, making OpenRAN easily the best investment protection for the future of communications technology.
OpenRAN is therefore ideally suited to deal with today’s heavily digital driven world, which generates a ton of data. With this only expected to increase along with the sheer number of connected devices, the slower the network will become. Hello 5G and hello OpenRAN – G-Force at work.
In summary, Parallel Wireless’s solution is effective because:
- Software defined, hence Open
- Plug and play – easy to install and maintain
- Flexible: supports any 3GPP-compliant split on a COTS based vBBU
- Cloud-native across legacy 2G/3G, 4G, 5G and beyond
- Software upgradeable to 5G.
The end results – Cost benefits are an overall reduction in CAPEX by 60% and by as much as 90% on OPEX spend. Now that’s what we call G-Force multiplied.