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Open RAN is gaining more momentum and the integration challenges are being increasingly identified as a critical enabler for the future. This topic was covered by our presentation at the “with Open RAN towards 6G” webinar hosted by Rimedo Labs and Intellify also featuring Rüdiger Kuntze from Deutsche Telekom and Simon Pryor from Acceleran alongside Marcin Dryjanski and Adrian Kliks from Rimedo Labs and myself. The recording of the integration presentation is available here, and the full webinar here.
Defining what we mean with integration also leads to the fact that we must acknowledge that interoperability and easy to integrate is not the same thing. Considering that companies in this industry are in competition, they need differentiation and are in need for innovation also at the network layer. Such innovation by nature impacts interfaces and functionality, thereby implying that pieces are not interoperable out-of-the-box and that there is thereby an integration challenge ahead.
So, identifying the various areas that represents integration challenges ahead, we can firstly identify the issue of performance in the baseband parts. When size of spectrum or number of antenna elements grow, the computational requirements explode. This, as well as the support for more throughput, calls for various accelerator solutions. Those comes with different architectural options and is at the end of the day the key enabler for making the networks more energy efficient. Efficiency comes not only from the energy consumption of the computation, but more importantly from that it together with efficient radio algorithms makes it possible to utilize the scarce radio interface better, thus reducing the energy consumed by the radio parts.
Tietoevry are heavily involved in assignments from clients to build 5G products based on, for example, Intel FlexRAN reference architecture and the latest Xeon chips that address challenges mentioned above.
Another integration area that emerges on the horizon is the aspect of applications running on top (or inside) Radio intelligent controllers. These apps are essentially implementing control-loops for certain aspects such as traffic steering, performance optimization or energy control. Those apps are expected to come from various suppliers, and they might have conflicting goals. It therefore means there needs to be an appropriate conflict resolution mechanism in place to control the overall behaviour. There is research ongoing in this area, and in the meantime every combination of apps needs to be properly integrated and validated.
These Apps forms one important part of the need to increase automation in the way mobile networks are operated. Automation is a topic valid also for traditional RAN, but Open RAN has a new architectural approach for such automation.
It is likely that communication service providers (CSP’s) will increasingly compete by reducing their operational costs, which imply that a great deal of automation is required. Such automation is naturally tied to the work processes of the specific CSP’s which in turn implies that the integration of all that operational control functionality needs to be done specifically per CSP.
Mats Eriksson leads business development and sales in the telecom and radio access sector in Tietoevry Product Development Services. He has previously co-founded technology companies and held managerial positions in various companies. He has a background in academia where he was in charge of a research cooperation institute and founded an EU innovation initiative.