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Open-RAN Architecture

  • 20 Jan 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman said that use of Open-RAN (Radio Access Network) and software defined telecom networks will open new opportunities for Indian entities to enter into the network equipment market.

Key Points

  • 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.
  • Advantage 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.


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