Why Telefónica, Vodafone, and DT are backing Open RAN

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Telefónica, Vodafone, and Deutsche Telekom (DT) are leading a group of telecommunications companies advocating for the progress of Open RAN (ORAN).

Open RAN (ORAN) is a new technology that allows mobile network operators to deploy equipment from different vendors in their networks. This technology can potentially increase competition in the network equipment market and reduce customer prices.

This article will examine the progress the Telefónica, Vodafone, and DT-led group has made with Open RAN.

Overview of Open RAN

Open RAN (radio access networks) is a radio access network (RAN) based on open, interoperable generic hardware and software components that can be selected and sourced from multiple vendors. This means operators can select any combination of approved components to build their network, allowing them to combine products from specialist suppliers. As a result, open RAN allows operators to reduce their reliance on a single vendor and enhance choice through increased competition in the industry.

The term ‘Open RAN’ was first introduced by Raghvendra Saboo and Amit Ray in October 2017 as an alternative to the current closed-source systems widely used in today’s telecommunications industry. Saboo and Ray have since created the OpenRAN Software Community Group at the Linux Foundation, with backing from Telefónica, Vodafone, DT-led Group, and several others. The group works towards developing a standardized open source platform for wireless mobile networks that fosters innovation, increases reliability, reduces total cost of ownership for operators, provides greater scalability and supports whole networks built from multiple component vendors rather than just one or two global vendors.

These efforts have seen Telefónica launch its first commercially available 5G network using Open RAN technology in Bilbao, Spain in August 2019. Since then other operators such as Vodafone have also implemented their own 5G networks based on this technology. In contrast, more recently Swedish telco giant Telia has declared it will be deploying an all-outdoor Open RAN system across countries like Sweden and Lithuania, a major milestone in its transition away from using Huawei equipment for 5G services.

Telefónica, Vodafone, DT-led Group Tout Open RAN Progress

Telefónica, Vodafone, and DT, leading European telecom operators, are backing the Open RAN movement to further drive open, interoperable 5G technology.

Open RAN (Radio Access Network) is a type of 5G technology that can provide flexibility and scalability that the traditional network architecture cannot offer. The Open RAN movement, supported by leading telecom equipment vendors, is gaining traction among the industry, with the introduction of the O-RAN Alliance in 2019.

In this article, we will explore the progress of the Open RAN movement by these leading European telecoms operators and how it is reshaping the industry.

Overview of Telefónica’s Open RAN strategy

Telefónica, a Spain-based telecommunications giant and one of the world’s largest providers of wireless services, has embraced the Open RAN (Radio Access Network) strategy as part of its vision for future 5G networks. Moreover, as one of three European telecom companies that are part of mobile industry organization GSMA, Telefónica is part of a DT-led Group that actively promotes the Open RAN strategy and encourages other research institutions, standards organizations, and operators to dedicate resources to collaborate in this mission.

Open RAN is an alternative approach to implementing 5G networks which allows less reliance on vendor infrastructure solutions and more flexibility across shared components developed by a broad coalition of members including network vendors, chip companies, universities and service providers. In addition, it enables operators to use an open architecture versus previous generations where most vendors had proprietary systems within their equipment. By decoupling components from different vendors, Telefónica seeks better infrastructure capabilities at a lower cost while encouraging user involvement through development which helps simplify deploying 5G networks into new markets faster.

The DT-led Group consists of Deutsche Telekom AG (DT), Vodafone Global Enterprise Limited (Vodafone) and Telefónica SA (Telefónica). This group has worked together since early 2018 to provide ongoing assistance on international regulatory matters related to Open RAN implementation throughout Europe. The dedicated focus on standards based solutions has helped provide end users with quality telecommunications services while reducing costs associated with deployments and upgrades through an increased flexibility in subcontracting parts to operators’ preferred vetted suppliers instead of relying on just one vendor’s technology infrastructure solution. Additionally, they have actively collaborated with other key vendors such as Intel and AWS to improve challenging areas within the project such as simplifying technology onboarding processes and providing real world use cases for successful Open Ran deployments across Europe either via upcoming tenders or enterprise cases like private mobile networks for smart cities or industrial parks.

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Benefits of Telefónica’s Open RAN strategy

Telefónica, Vodafone, and DT, as members of a DT-led group advocating for the adoption of Open RAN technology, have begun to realize the potential benefits this technology could offer. For example, open RAN technology can help mobile operators increase flexibility and reduce costs by deploying various new radio access technologies from multiple vendors. This would enable operators to reduce costs in two main ways by decreasing the complexity of their equipment installations and reconfigurations, and by making better use of spectrum resources.

Furthermore, Open RAN offers greater control over certain aspects of the network. Once deployed, mobile operators could dynamically manage specific areas or features such as interference and coverage across their networks in real time. Therefore, the potential gains in network optimization that Telefónica could achieve through an Open RAN strategy are substantial.

In addition, an open architecture lowers barriers to entry for new players that offer radio access solutions and brings them into markets with dynamic competition among multiple suppliers. This results in lower operating expenses while at the same time improving service quality due to open innovation and higher levels of competition amongst vendors.

Overall, with its increased abilities to optimize their networks efficiently and reduce associated costs for deployment maintenance via Open RAN technology, Telefónica stands to benefit from this powerful solution significantly in the coming years.

Vodafone

Vodafone has been one of the leading companies in developing Open RAN (radio access network) technology. The telecom giant, Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, and the recently formed Group have maintained the view that Open RAN will be the future of 5G networks.

The group is vocal about the importance of Open RAN in its vision to create an open and interoperable 5G ecosystem. In this article, we will look at why Vodafone and the other group members are backing Open RAN.

Overview of Vodafone’s Open RAN strategy

Vodafone is one of the world’s largest mobile companies, with over 600 million customers across over thirty countries. As such, Vodafone is keenly aware of the vast potential of Open RAN technology and has invested heavily in its development. Open RAN is an open-source hardware and software stack enabling radio technology interoperability from different vendors. Leveraging open standards allows multiple vendors to contribute to developing future radio access networks (RANs) for use in mobile networks with cost-effective solutions.

In June 2020, Vodafone announced its Open RAN strategy, which focuses on making RAN networks easy to build and optimize for their services – without being tied to any specific vendor. Vodafone aims for 40% O-RAN coverage on 2G/4G/5G by 2025 and plans to deploy Open RAN solutions in Spain, UK, Germany and Italy during 2021 as part of its trial phase. The company is also working together with Telefónica, DT Group (alongside Nokia), Parallel Wireless and Intelisys Communications on developing solutions based on the 5G Core standard launched by O-RAN Alliance – a group formed by telecommunication industry actors that foster collaboration between vendors in developing successful commercial implementations based on Open RAN capabilities.

Given the growing support gathering behind this technology – with over 135 leading telecom providers exemplified through the Group led by Telefónica and Vodafone – it will be interesting to observe how this movement impacts current traditional and new offerings 5G network deployments over the years ahead.

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Benefits of Vodafone’s Open RAN strategy

In recent years, Vodafone has strategically decided to increase its focus on Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN), an alternative approach to the traditional radio access network market dominated by three main players: Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia. Open RAN provides Vodafone with a powerful tool to reduce its dependence on the large vendors while increasing choice and lower cost.

The key benefits of Vodafone’s Open RAN strategy can be seen in the increased agility of its networks, reduced capital and operational costs and improved customer experience by introducing more choice into the market. In addition, by deploying Open RAN technology, operators can get more out of their existing infrastructure while taking control of their supplier relationship. This has enabled Vodafone to rapidly innovate in 5G, cloudification and edge computing.

Vodafone is one of several members of a Telefónica-Vodafone-DT led group that have come together to support the development and rollout of open radio access network equipment standards—known as Telecom Infra Project (TIP). The members have announced several updates showing progress in their efforts towards creating open networks based on shared research and development across multiple locations worldwide. Through TIP, Vodafone is working with several other global telecoms companies like Orange, SoftBank, Deutsche Telecom Kit (DTK) – previously known as GigaSpaces – US Cellular, Axell Wireless India’s Reliance Jio owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries – China Mobile among others towards driving innovation in telecoms technology.

The long-term advantages provided by Open RAN include faster deployment times which allow operators like Vodafone greater flexibility when rolling out new services or technologies and better support for network slicing allowing multiple applications from different segments sharable using a single multi-access edge computing platform benefiting consumers through greater access choice at optimal costs. Thus, it’s clear why Vodafone has joined this initiative for developing open standards for radio access networks and managing its suppliers marketplace, which will bring many benefits like increased agility; reduced capital expenditure; improved customer experience; enhanced control over suppliers, etc the long run.

DT-led Group

Telefónica, Vodafone, and Deutsche Telekom are leaders of a group touting the progress in Open RAN technology. The group, which also includes operators from various countries, explains why their participation in Open RAN is necessary for the telecom industry going forward. This effort is expected to revolutionize how mobile networks are built and operated. It could lead to more cost-effective deployments for operators, and improved network performance for users.

Let’s closely examine what Open RAN is and why the DT-led group is backing its development.

Overview of DT-led Group’s Open RAN strategy

The DT-led Group—composed of Telefónica, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom (DT)—has emerged as a key driver in the massive shift to Open RAN (ORAN). ORAN is expected to reduce costs for operators, improve innovation timelines, and give telecom companies more choice when purchasing 5G equipment. Members of the DT-led Group have voiced their support for the concept behind ORAN and appear determined to make it a reality.

The DT-led Group has undertaken initiatives with its three members, partnering with vendors and hosting meetings with other industry participants to provide leadership in the ORAN movement. The group has stated its mission is “to create powerful alternatives” to non-open sector solutions and “to protect customers from lock-in into proprietary technologies that prevent them from making technology choices freely suitable for their needs”.

The members of the DT-led Group believe that their progress thus far can be divided into two major categories: building improvements towards products, suppliers and standards; and creating a more competitive supply chain overall through collaborative problem solving. Towards this latter goal, they focus on developing new processes, working with independent bodies such as 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) involving multiple industry players like internal members/affiliates or external providers across the whole ecosystem. Furthermore, to ensure successful implementation they are also rolling out pilots involving partners like Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless.

While acknowledging that many challenges remain in making ORAN available at scale across 5G networks worldwide, DT-led Group members remain committed to overcoming these obstacles for a better telecommunication future based on open technologies without compromising operational excellence or quality performance delivery.

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Benefits of DT-led Group’s Open RAN strategy

Operators can benefit from a long list of advantages by partnering with Telefónica, Vodafone, and DT in the Open RAN ecosystem. Firstly, open RAN enables the decoupling of hardware from software, allowing operators to select the best-in-class components regardless of their source. In addition, this gives them access to a more diverse range of suppliers who can provide lower cost offerings.

Moreover, Open RAN has been designed in such a way that it can promote rapid deployment times by enabling reduced testing processes and better automation capabilities. Furthermore, improved observability and troubleshooting options also reduce time associated with fault finding and repair operations. This is all while offering greater flexibility to network planning teams who need to be more reactive when scaling up or down resources when needed.

Open RAN is also designed to provide a tighter security strategy that doesn’t rely on traditional locked platform designs. And by implementing open networking strategies across their optments, operators may unlock opportunities for higher capacity with 5G according to DT’s head of network architecture Bernhard Martini . “Open RAN offers us an enhanced flexibility to evolve our technology strategy,” Martini added.

Conclusion

The Open RAN initiative, driven by the Telefónica, Vodafone and DT-led Group, is a promising step towards using open architectures in telecom networks. This initiative has made substantial progress over the past year, particularly in developing an open and interoperable platform for radio access network (RAN) components. This would furthermore give interconnectivity between telecommunication operators across networks and greater flexibility regarding potential upgrades or capex reduction.

The initiative has made several key developments in recent months. These include progressing specifications for members to meet industry compliance standards such as 3GPP; releasing Open RAN Software Release (OSR); reviewing proposed architectural and technical specifications; creating new associate member programs in both software companies and telecom operators; expanding against 5G to introduce new technologies such as network slicing, enhanced mobile broadband and new radio access technologies including mmWave; participating in test beds and pilots with key stakeholders such as public safety, academia and global system integrators; exploring strategic partnerships with enterprises that can help bring Open RAN components to market quicker with more efficient production economics; launching OpenGAN – a global marketing organization for Open RAN, focussed on accelerating commercial adoption of the technology worldwide

In summary, Telefónica, Vodafone and DT-led Group are taking promising steps towards building an open and interoperable network architecture via their Open RAN initiatives. This would give both network operators greater flexibility regarding potential upgrades or reduced capex while giving customers access to more reliable service through interconnectivity across networks. The progress over the last year shows that the Group is steadily making headway towards its goal of a more accessible technology infrastructure for telecom operators everywhere.

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