Open RAN: Driving Innovation and Diversity in Tomorrow’s 5G Networks
Earlier this month, key stakeholders from across the telecom space gathered in New Orleans at the Connect (X) Conference to discuss a broad range of issues and opportunities shaping the future of the industry. One of the most widely discussed and debated topics this year was the introduction and execution of Open RAN, interoperable technologies that enable a more diverse, resilient, and secure ecosystem for radio access networks.
At Dense Air, we’re delighted to see our industry increasingly turn its focus to the opportunities unlocked by Open RAN technologies, an area where we’ve long been focused, and which is at the core of our business. We believe that the widespread adoption of Open RAN is critical to closing the digital divide and making connectivity more open, shared, and inclusive.
Paul Trubridge, Dense Air’s SVP of Global Solutions, shared our perspective on the main stage:
In many instances, the economics of a mobile network operator (MNO) building out its network is broken, which is why we see areas where coverage and capacity are limited. This is especially true for the mid-band 5G, where the revenue per user (RPU) advantages from 5G aren’t enough to fund overlays for each individual operator. RAN sharing fundamentally changes the economics and solves this problem: when RAN infrastructure is shared by multiple MNOs or mixed public/private use cases, the costs per operator are significantly reduced.
Open RAN architecture is built with scalability as a primary goal. It allows for multiple operators and mixed-use cases, which means that multiple vendors can use a single network site. For instance, Open RAN supports MORAN (Multi Operator RAN), which allows all the infrastructure except the radio carriers — the antenna, tower, site, and power — to be shared by multiple mobile operators. Open RAN also supports MOCN (Multi Operator Core Network), which is similar but allows two or more network operators to share the carriers as well. Because Open RAN technologies are highly customizable, they create the building blocks for a system that can remain scalable and reliable, even as network demand increases.
Thanks to cloud computing, Open RAN architecture also allows for virtualization — meaning the use of dedicated hardware with flexible software components that can scale the network. If the RAN footprint needs to expand or new service providers want to be hosted or new use cases emerge, we have the ability to do that without investing in expensive new hardware.
Finally, Dense Air’s use of Open RAN architecture also allows the network to use a range of vendors, as opposed to being locked in to one vendor in perpetuity. For instance, we can mix-and-match radio units and scale up or down using hyper-scaler software technology. Because Dense Air can do this without having to install new physical infrastructure, we can ensure that the network uses the best suppliers for the task at hand, increasing vendor diversity and reducing supply chain risks.
Taken together, through our early adoption of Open RAN technology, we have created a future-proof solution. By allowing for multiple vendors, virtualizing key components, and allowing multiple operators to leverage the same hardware, we’re building a solution that can expand as a population’s needs expand — deployments that can stand the test of time.
We’re excited to see others across our industry increasingly start to appreciate the innovation and opportunities that Open RAN technologies can unlock.– Ken Czosnowski, EVP Business Development