I’m Rob Hughes, Head of Wireless Marketing at Fujitsu Network Communications. And I want to start an open dialogue about Open RAN and vRAN. At first glance, O-RAN and vRAN have important similarities.
In fact, IGR estimates that 52.5% of global wireless subscribers will be connected via Open RAN. The large incumbent RAN vendors, who want to preserve market share, say vRAN provides everything operators want with minimal need for integration. But look beneath the surface because O-RAN has a lot more to offer. Let me break it down for you by explaining how O-RAN is similar and how it’s different than vRAN.
First, the easy part. How are vRAN and O-RAN similar? It comes down to one aspect. vRAN and O-RAN both support commercial, off-the-shelf hardware, often called COTS. So, they both offer capex savings and high scalability. Either way, you get to save money by using generic hardware.
Now for the differences. vRAN’s primary drawback is using proprietary interfaces to the rest of the network. So, you’re locked in to one vendor for both network and vRAN hardware. Not so for O-RAN, which offers four significant advantages by using interfaces based on open standards.
First, O-RAN’s standard interfaces stimulate market competition. Think capex savings, more choices, and greater negotiating power for operators. Rakuten, for example, claims to have realized 40% opex and 30% capex savings with O-RAN.
Second, open interfaces encourage innovation and make it easier for new vendors to enter the market. By enabling vendors to focus on supporting fewer types of network elements, O-RAN reduces the upfront capital and resources needed in comparison to the costly investment of developing all the different components needed for an end-to-end proprietary solution. Encouraging market entry, therefore, means vendors are better positioned to specialize with niche market offerings. Operators needing radios with specific requirements – such as form factor, xHaul, or environmental specifications – are more likely to find what they need among O-RAN vendors.
Third, O-RAN introduces RAN Intelligent Control (RIC), a new function that empowers operators and vendors to quickly develop and quickly introduce applications. Applications can be used to improve mobility and interference management, as well as admission control. RIC’s advanced control functionality delivers increased efficiency and superior radio resource management. This functionality can be further enhanced by combining it with artificial intelligence (AI). Thanks to RAN intelligent control, operators can now tailor their software precisely on their terms. And they don’t have to wait for their vendor’s next software release, which may be months away, even if a desired feature is included.
Finally, simply by enabling a bigger, more competitive, and more diverse vendor pool, Open RAN removes constraints that limit the available selection of vendors. This reduces risk at a time of grave concerns about reliably meeting subscriber demands.
I know this has been a very quick summary. Now that we’ve looked beneath the surface, you probably want to know more about which RAN is the better choice. I’m interested to continue the conversation and help answer your questions. Reach out to us any time, and let’s keep this open dialogue going.