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Open-RAN Architecture

  • 11 May 2022
  • 5 min read

For Prelims: Open-RAN Architecture, 5G.

For Mains: Advantages of Open-RAN Architecture.

Why in News?

The Ministry of Communications has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with M/s VVDN Technologies Private Limited to facilitate registered startups, innovators and MSMEs working in the field of Open RAN (Radio Access Network) to get their product tested at the existing lab of M/s VVDN.

  • Such testing certification shall accelerate the research innovation in domestic design and manufacturing. It is aimed that India shall be emerging as a design leader in 5G/O-RAN. This test certification eco system will make India as design testing and certification hub of Asia.

What is O-RAN?

  • About:
    • Open-RAN is not a technology, but rather an ongoing shift in mobile network architecture that allows networks to be built using subcomponents from a variety of vendors.
      • O-RAN has an open, multi-vendor architecture for deploying mobile networks, as opposed to the single-vendor proprietary architecture.
      • O-RAN uses software to make hardware manufactured by different companies work together.
    • The key concept of Open RAN is “opening” the protocols and interfaces between the various subcomponents (radios, hardware and software) in the RAN.
      • Radio Access Network (RAN):
        • It is the part of a telecommunications system that connects individual devices to other parts of a network through radio connections.
        • A RAN resides between user equipment, such as a mobile phone, a computer or any remotely controlled machine, and provides the connection with its core network.
    • As a technical matter this is what the industry refers to as a disaggregated RAN.
  • Elements of RAN:
    • The Radio Unit (RU) is where the radio frequency signals are transmitted, received, amplified and digitized. The RU is located near, or integrated into,the antenna.
    • The Distributed Unit (DU) is where the real-time, baseband processing functions reside. The DU can be centralized or located near the cell site.
    • The Centralized Unit (CU) is where the less time-sensitive packet processing functions typically reside.
  • Functioning of Open RAN:
    • It is the interface between the RU, DU and the CU that are the main focus of Open RAN.
    • By opening and standardizing these interfaces (among others in the network), and incentivizing implementation of the same, networks can be deployed with a more modular design without being dependent upon a single vendor.
    • Making these changes can also allow the DU and CU to be run as virtualized software functions on vendor-neutral hardware.
  • Traditional RAN:
    • In a traditional RAN system, the radio, hardware and software are proprietary.
      • This means that nearly all of the equipment comes from one supplier and that operators are unable to, for example, deploy a network using radios from one vendor with hardware and software from another vendor.
    • Problems:
      • Mixing and matching cell sites from different providers typically leads to a performance reduction.
      • The result is that most network operators, while supporting multiple RAN vendors, will deploy networks using a single vendor in a geographic region which can create vendor lock-in with high barriers to entry for new innovators.

What are the Advantages of O-RAN?

  • Innovation and Options:
    • An open environment expands the ecosystem, and with more vendors providing the building blocks, there is more innovation and more options for the Operators. They can also add new services.
  • New Opportunities:
    • It will open new opportunities for Indian entities to enter into the network equipment market.
  • Cost Saving:
    • The benefits of this approach also include increased network agility and flexibility, and cost savings.
    • It’s expected to make 5G more flexible and cost efficient.

Source: PIB

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