Open RAN development will change carrier/vendor dynamics, set the stage for disruption
LONDON–For mobile network operators looking to upgrade to 5G, the vendor community is dominated by a limited number of end-to-end suppliers. Aside from the obvious economics this paradigm prescribes, in a software-defined, 5G world, this lack of openness can potentially limit agility and innovation.
But it doesn’t have to be that way according to John Baker, senior vice president of business development at Mavenir. In a keynote session today at 5G World, Baker provided an update on the development of virtualized and open RAN, describing the potential for a major shake up in the vendor landscape on the back of open interfaces, platforms and ecosystems.
“I think it’s one of the biggest changes that’s really going to come out in the 5G world,” Baker said. “Open RAN really is the ability to change the vendor ecosystem. What we’ve seen is a whole bunch of vendor lock-in that has really happened through the standardization processes. Openness is now starting to appear in the industry, which I think is going to bring a lot of new innovation and new vendors into this marketplace.”
As carriers look to move virtualization out of the core and into the radio access network, the charge has been led by the ORAN Alliance, a mash up of the C-RAN Alliance and xRAN Forum founded by AT&T, China Mobile, DT, NTT Docomo and Orange. Major vendors are starting to come around as evidenced by Ericsson joining the group back in February.
Baker described vRAN as just one application within a broader open RAN architecture. “With vRAN as an application, you can run other applications side by side. The base station of the future, it will look like an iPhone. We’re soon going to see base stations with their own app stores. If I’ve got multiple vRAN applications coming to market…I can change my vendors overnight. It’s going to be healthy competition.”
This topic came up earlier in the day during a CTO panel with O2’s Chief Technology Brendan O’Reilly looking back at LTE vendor competition as a conduit for innovation. “If you look at the market that’s coming, if you look at the standalone [5G NR] market, you will have your Mavenirs, your Affirmeds, your Parallel Wirelesses. You need that diversification that standalone will drive to be able to push the market forward. We welcome it. To really get the full benefits of what 5G can deliver, we need a wider ecosystem.”
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