5G will accelerate the variety and volume of data traffic, further shattering constrained legacy service-delivery models and impacting network economics. Many new services will emerge on the 5G network the same way Uber, Facebook, and Instagram emerged after LTE deployment.
Market dynamics in India is changing; major investments are pouring in the sector. The driver behind these investments is clearly a promise that this market holds, and the paradigm shift to market place that operators in India are contemplating. To accomplish this dream, a disruptive and transformational telecom infrastructure technology is a must to drive costs down, enable new services by bringing in unique features of 5G, network virtualization (NFV, cloud), intelligent layer analysis, and augmented intelligence (analytics, AI/ML, IoT) to bolster the journey toward becoming a market place like Amazon and Tencent.
Mobile operators face the technical test of squeezing more data into a much faster and more efficient, yet less expensive, pipe while ARPUs are dropping rapidly.
The network economics clearly need to change. Looking to solve the problem, many operators are turning to alternative architectures that drastically reduce their CapEx and OpEx costs. The shift toward software-based technology and end-to-end virtualization opens the door to new automated, faster-to-deploy, and less-expensive technology options. While networks today have been limited by walled garden technologies, the new and forming OpenRAN ecosystem provides a solid foundation for greatly improved network economics, with a vendor-agnostic ecosystem of open source components, software, hardware, radios, and open interfaces.
A key component for such a future-proof network is the virtualized RAN (vRAN) – a key virtualized application of the OpenRAN ecosystem – with architecture and interfaces that are already fully specified and open, and are supported by the top global mobile operators.
vRAN features the separation of RAN baseband processing unit (BBU) hardware from software, defined practical demarcation points, as well as standardized open interface in BBU protocol stacks. A future-proof vRAN BBU (vBBU) consists of the functional modules of the distributed unit (DU), which handles real-time baseband processing, and central unit (CU), which handles non-real-time baseband processing functions. vRAN enables and presents multi-fold benefits:
Hardware flexibility and lower cost, higher availability, and reliability through the adoption of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, high-performance computing, storage, and networking processors;
Agile and much less costly deployment of new features and upgrades through VNF and SDN implementations of network functionalities and applications; and
Easy and intelligent provisioning and management of network through orchestration and big data analysis.
With existing backhaul, carriers can easily reap the benefit of reducing costs by aggregating/pooling CUs at centralized locations, away from the location-constrained RRUs, and thus the hardware footprint and the actual number of units can be reduced. With sufficient backhaul bandwidth today, or the future upgrade of backhaul bandwidth, carriers can further reduce costs by aggregation of DUs at some hub locations.
On top of the TCO benefits available by adopting vRAN, OpenRAN also promises the following benefits:
- Reduces vendor lock-in with possibility to run multi vRAN applications;
- Ability to run multiple applications on the DU;
- Minimize RAN inventory;
- Lower maintenance and support costs;
- Single test for RAN nodes eliminating the operator lab testing; and
- Merchant chip sets to replace proprietary designs.
vRAN standards enable a future-proofed network performance, compared to the prior generation RAN architecture:
- vBBUs can be smarter acting as the brain for multiple RRUs. The baseband processing centralization enables dynamic RAN adaptation;
- Lower-cost RRUs for network densification; and
- Multiple radio designs to cater to a variety of use cases, with advanced MIMO, beam forming, and other technologies.
vRAN topology embodies the general trends toward cloud computing, edge computing, and software-defined radio – it is here to stay.
Mavenir is a pioneer in OpenRAN and vRAN solutions with its comprehensive portfolio of virtualized network elements, including vBBU, RRHs, and centralized element manager and analytics server, which support 4G LTE, 5G and all major global frequency bands. Mavenir is focused on making the adoption of OpenRAN vRAN as easy as possible and cost effective as the smart investment in the future. We also believe OpenRAN will give impetus to local manufacturing initiative of Government of India.