We are enabling a robust 5G ecosystem through our investment in Open RAN and Cloud RAN
As 5G continues to be rolled out, the industry has begun to explore the potential benefits of an expanded ecosystem of mobile access players in the market. Communications Service Providers (CSPs), vendors and even governments are working together to define the role of open standards and how they can help evolve 5G networks to support new services and enhanced efficiency. Open Radio Access Network (RAN) sits at the heart of this discussion.
We believe all industry stakeholders must jointly create a path for the adoption of Open RAN. CSPs and vendors need to work together to contribute to standard definitions, including Open RAN interfaces, and define an adoption plan.
By enabling innovations, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applied to the RAN, Open RAN will create many benefits. These include improved network performance; accelerated time-to-market of new services and functions; more flexible and agile networks; and CAPEX and OPEX efficiencies.
We're driving and actively contributing to the Open RAN specification
The O-RAN specification complements 3GPP, ONAP and ETSI specifications. Open RAN aims to create easier interoperability on existing 3GPP RAN interfaces. In addition, the O-RAN Alliance is defining new interfaces not currently being specified by 3GPP.
The O-RAN Alliance started in June 2018 and has rapidly gained momentum. The alliance inherited the activities of the previous xRAN and C-RAN forums. Nokia has contributed to both xRAN and C-RAN, and was the first leading RAN vendor to join the O-RAN Alliance. There are now more than 20 CSPs and over 160 contributing members in the Alliance, and the first set of completed specifications have been made publicly available on the O-RAN Alliance website. Nokia is widely represented in all O-RAN working groups and co-chairs groups that are defining the O-RAN Fronthaul Interface and the O-RAN near-real-time RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC).
The Open RAN Policy Coalition is a group of companies formed to promote policies that will accelerate the adoption of open RAN solutions to create innovation, spur competition and expand the supply chain for advanced wireless technologies, including 5G. The coalition is formed of global vendors and CSPs to promote public policies for an Open RAN environment.
Nokia is the first major global RAN vendor to join the Open RAN Policy Coalition. Nokia has a long history of support for open and interoperable technologies and is a substantial contributor to 3GPP for 3G, 4G and 5G. Nokia, along with CSPs and other stakeholders, is helping to shape policy choices that will affect how wireless networks are built, including support for research and development in open networks.
Key Open RAN architecture components
We are also driving the development and technical specification of the Open Fronthaul Interface and the near-real-time RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), which will help automate and optimize the network. In addition to the O-RAN Alliance, Nokia has championed open standards in 3GPP, the Linux Foundation’s ONAP initiative, ETSI’s Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) initiative, and more.
RAN Intelligent Controller as the gateway for network innovation
RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) is a new optional virtualized 5G optimization technology that adds programmability to an existing or new RAN and allows SON-like (Self-Optimizing Networks) capabilities to be added. Nokia and AT&T are jointly creating an RIC software platform and have run successful trials with external applications, called “xApps”, at the edge of the CSP’s live 5G mmWave network on an Akraino-based Open Cloud Platform.
The RIC platform provides functions and interfaces that boost optimization through policy-driven closed loop automation and faster, more flexible service deployments, as well as programmability with AI/ML technologies within the RAN.
RIC will allow xApps to control aspects of the 5G radio network through installed control applications. xApps can come from multiple sources and provide many benefits. One example is smarter traffic steering across different layers and radio access technologies, driven by machine learning, improve spectral efficiency and network capacity.
O-RAN-based fronthaul using eCPRI
The O-RAN alliance has specified an eCPRI-based 7.2x open interface between the Radio Unit (O-RU) and Distributed Unit (O-DU). This is the only standardized fronthaul interface that enables multi-vendor interoperability, while optimizing the cost of fronthaul transmission and maximizing RF performance.
O-RAN fronthaul scales efficiently from conventional Radio Units used in LTE up to high bandwidth and massive MIMO in 5G.
“This successful trial is a testament to what we can achieve through openness and collaboration. Together with the O-RAN Alliance, AT&T and Nokia will continue to develop and contribute to the E2 interface and the near-real-time RIC platform to help enable an intelligent and flexible 5G network.”
Mazin Gilbert/VP of Technology and Innovation at AT&T
Nokia powers the world’s first cloud-based 5G RAN in North America
While Cloud RAN and Open RAN have strong ties and are often discussed together, they are different technologies and one can be applied without the other. Open RAN defines open interfaces between network elements, while Cloud RAN virtualizes the baseband and separates baseband hardware and software.
Nokia AirScale Cloud RAN is the most advanced solution of ts kind, virtualizing not only the 5G central unit, but also the 5G distributed unit. The solution offers CSPs 5G coverage, capacity, low-latency and real-time cloud-based processing to meet changing demand, helping them generate revenue from new 5G services, with lower costs.
Being able to run the same software across RAN/Cloud RAN/O-RAN enables ultimate flexibility in defining CSP network architecture without sacrificing network features, performance or security. Nokia is the only global RAN vendor with experience in multi-vendor Cloud RAN implementations.
“Cloud RAN has the potential to fundamentally transform mobile networks, making them more agile and dynamic and allowing operators to be more nimble in activating new services and revenue streams. Nokia has been more proactive and consistent in driving Cloud RAN technology than its peers, and the launch of its fully cloudified 5G AirScale Cloud RAN solution is only the latest example of its commitment.”
Nokia Open RAN solutions will deliver world class performance and security
Nokia’s O-RAN support will be built on its existing AirScale platform which provides the same high performance and feature set Nokia customers have come to expect. Nokia has already made significant investments in O-RAN, leading the early deployment of RIC and the open fronthaul.
Nokia’s solution is built for security, designed according to DFSEC (Design for Security) and NESAS (Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme) processes and supported by years of field experience.
While Open RAN offers programmability for network optimization and stimulates innovation through open interfaces, key items need to be addressed to enable its adoption. These include interoperability and lifecycle management of network functions, as well as interworking with deployed networks.
It is also important to recognize the increased complexity of multi-vendor integration. Nokia has developed strong multi-vendor integration skills and has vast experience from live networks, as well as a robust process to ensure interoperability with leading mobile device vendors. This system integration expertise will support CSPs and aid O-RAN adoption.
We're committed to a secure and open supply chain
We believe that policymakers, CSPs and equipment providers should work together to support research and development of emerging network technologies that include open systems, advanced 5G technologies and foundational 6G research, with policies that support a robust ecosystem of trusted suppliers. A well coordinated effort around open solutions will contribute to the success of the 5G transformation.
Nokia’s accelerated investment and firm commitment to Open RAN ensures that countries can embrace openness to secure their telecom supply chain, without compromising on the security, scalability and performance of their 5G infrastructure.