Report: Carriers will follow traditional DAS approach to large venues; open RAN a big opportunity for enterprise connectivity
This is by no means new information but worth repeating: Carriers almost exclusively invest in in-building wireless systems for large venues like stadiums and transit hubs. For enterprise in-building systems, the impetus for investment falls with the building owner or tenant. Given this dynamic, enterprises are in need of more flexible, affordable, IT-centric systems and movements in virtualized, open RAN equipment, coupled with trends around private networks, could prove a viable solution.
In the U.S. market, enterprise stakeholders can use 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum for private networks using both the general authorized access or priority access spectrum access tiers. Similarly, Germany regulators have set aside the 3.7 GHz band for private industrial networks to serve the country’s large manufacturing base. So with an opportunity to side step carriers in securing spectrum, enterprises need RAN equipment to take control of their own systems.
The O-RAN Alliance, a cross-industry consortium made up of carriers and vendors, is working on opening up RAN interfaces to allow carriers to save money by switching out single-purpose boxes with general-purpose IT infrastructure. Setting up a multi-vendor radio site creates capex savings and lets operators pick and choose equipment to optimally meet the needs of particular site and/or project. This same logic can apply to enterprise users.
Mavenir’s John Baker, senior vice president of business development, said the enterprise segment is getting “a lot of attention” in the context of open RAN. “Given the separation of in-building today that is supplied by a wider group of vendors, it is seen as an easier opportunity, especially when they can be standalone systems like CBRS. The same problem still exists of connection to the carrier[‘s] existing core of the vRAN in place of the eNB that is currently connected to the DAS. Bottomline, the interconnected carrier still has to be onboard with open RAN.”
For more from Mavenir on open RAN, network economics and vendor dynamic, read this article.
A recent report from Mobile Experts tracks challenges facing the DAS industry during the transition for LTE to 5G. The analyst firm forecasts that carrier DAS approaches “will remain fairly stable” while the enterprise DAS segment will be ripe for innovation.
“Open RAN virtualized solutions offer an exciting opportunity for in-building wireless suppliers to potentially create combined coverage and capacity solutions that can scale across different market segments,” Mobile Experts’ Chief Analyst Joe Madden said in a statement. “Neutral hosts will create new indoor solutions that can evolve from LTE to 5G and provide scalable capacity and coverage solutions for the Enterprise market.”
In-building vendor SOLiD joined the O-RAN Alliance earlier this year and has in-market a virtualized RAN signal source solution that’s compatible with its DAS. SOLiD President Ken Sandfeld sees slow adoption in the carrier space and a more present opportunity in the enterprise.
“I believe the first networks will be directly to the enterprises and the reason is because they can. For the first time in a long time, they have control over their destinies for spectrum. If you’re a customer that’s big enough to take on the challenge of building your own networks, it’s because you have the resources to do it and you have the ability to do it.”
He continued: “Enterprises need solutions they can scale. We need to accomplish what the enterprise and the carrier needs. Giving a carrier a cheaper RAN solution isn’t going to solve the problem,” of decreased in-building/enterprise system investment. “They still can’t afford to deploy. If it means there’s a server that each carrier remotely loads their software in, then so be it, the system can work that way.”
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