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Open RAN

Nokia is committed to lead an open mobile future with strong network performance and security

We are enabling a robust 5G ecosystem

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. Many interfaces of the 5G network between network elements are open with established procedures ensuring multi-vendor interoperability. Multi-vendor networks are a reality, with different vendors being chosen in different regions or domains of the network. Various Communications Service Providers (CSPs), vendors and governments have been working together to explore the role of additional open standards for the Radio Access Network (RAN) domain and how Open RAN can help evolve 5G networks. Open Radio Access Network (RAN) sits at the heart of this discus.

5G RAN performance, security, reliability and efficiency requires continuous innovation in hardware, software and services across the RAN network domain. Openness enables collaboration and has the potential to accelerate innovation when leading players in their respective fields work together. Openness can come at the expense of new complexities, which could slow down commercial 5G adoption, evolution and – on the level of society – progress in digitalization.

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. 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.

O-RAN-based fronthaul using eCPRI

The fronthaul interface between radio Units (RU, e.g. Remote Radio Heads or massive MIMO antennas) and baseband units (in particular the Distributed Units (DU)) is one of the focus areas in Open RAN.

The O-RAN Alliance has specified an eCPRI-based 7.2x open interface between the Radio Unit (O-RU) and Distributed Unit (O-DU) as a basis for connecting radio units and baseband units of different vendors.

O-RAN-based Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC)

Another focus areas in Open RAN is the establishment of a new radio intelligent layer on top of the base stations. 

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.

Nokia Open RAN solutions will deliver world class performance and security

Nokia's O-RAN support bases on its field-proven AirScale platform. This ensures high performance and feature richness which Nokia customers have come to expect. Nokia has 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.

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