Operators announce Open Radio Access Network Alliance

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Big five mobile operators link up for openness in next-generation radio access networks

Five of the world’s largest mobile operators – AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DoCoMo and Orange – today announced “a world-wide, carrier-led effort to drive new levels of openness in the radio access networks (RANs) of next generation wireless systems.

They said the Open Radio Access Network (ORAN) Alliance “will combine and extend the efforts of the cloud-RAN Alliance and the xRAN Forum into a single, operator-led effort.”

Making the announcement at Mobile World Congress (MWC) they said that as mobile traffic increases, networks and associated equipment must become more energy efficient, software-driven, virtualised, flexible and intelligent. The Alliance plans to make RANs smarter with real-time analytics to embedded machine learning systems and artificial intelligence for back end-modules to provide network intelligence.

Virtualized network elements – with open, standardized interfaces – will be key aspects of the reference designs developed by the Alliance, along with open source technologies and open white box network elements.

The key principles of the ORAN Alliance are:
• open, interoperable interfaces, RAN virtualization and big data-enabled RAN intelligence;
• maximize the use of off-the-shelf hardware and merchant silicon and minimize use of proprietary hardware; and
• specify APIs and interfaces, driving standards to adopt them as appropriate, and exploring open source where appropriate.

“To take full advantage of the flexibility of 5G, we have to go beyond the new radios and change the overall architecture of the end-to-end system,” said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and the company’s chief technology officer. “Open modularity, intelligent, software-defined networks, and virtualization will be essential to deliver agile services to our customers. ORAN will accelerate industry progress in these areas.”

written by Annie Turner