With cloud technology playing such a critical role today, tech leaders must now turn their focus toward optimizing their investments in the cloud; to do that, they must consider the importance of cloud connectivity. Connectivity to the cloud is as critical as the cloud itself, as businesses increasingly adopt numerous cloud-based solutions for communication purposes. Enterprises must ensure they can easily reach the cloud while simultaneously managing and connecting multiple clouds together in a secure, reliable, and cost-effective manner.
To succeed in their cloud communication connectivity endeavors, companies are leveraging whichever new applications can optimize their communications the best. The answer to their cloud connectivity problems may come in the form of open Radio Access Network (RAN) solutions.
Radio-access networks (RAN) serve to connect the base stations that transmit and receive traffic from endpoints like cell phones and laptops and provide the link toward the carrier core network. Without standards, wireless equipment vendors designing their RAN gear may not consider whether it interoperates with gear made by other vendors. As a result, in order to have a network that operates smoothly, businesses are often stuck dealing with one company and one company only when they want to deploy a licensed wireless network.
The concept of Open RAN encourages industry-wide standards for RAN interfaces that support interoperation between vendors' equipment. The main goal for using open RAN is to have an interoperability standard for RAN elements. Virtualization and cloud are concepts that are complementary to open RAN. For example, network architecture could virtualize parts of the cellular network that are traditionally handled by specialized hardware and software. If equipment meets open RAN standards, it should be compatible with gear made by any other vendor whose gear also meets the standards.
Open RAN, while relatively new, is already booming, generating just shy of USD one billion revenue in 2021. The technology is expected to continue to grow as well, with prediction putting revenue for 2024 at 3.2 billion. With political and industry momentum behind the technology and projects leveraging the technology already making waves, it's no wonder the technology is expected to grow so immensely.
Recently, Mavenir, a Network Software Provider building the future of networks with cloud-native software that runs on any cloud and transforms the way the world connects, announced that with Vodafone, a British multinational telecommunications company, and Wind River (News - Alert), a global leader in delivering software for the intelligent edge, have completed the first data and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) call across a containerized 4G small cell Open RAN solution in a lab environment. The completed tests are the latest steps forward to delivering an open and vendor-interoperable 4G connectivity solution for small to medium-sized office locations.
"Open RAN is opening doors to simplified and intuitive connectivity solutions," said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone (News - Alert) UK. "For our wider network deployment strategy, Open RAN is enabling us to work with a wider pool of suppliers and to avoid vendor lock-in scenarios that might prevent us from taking advantage of the latest innovations. The same could be said for enterprise connectivity solutions."
Open RAN technology separates software from hardware, meaning more flexibility for mobile operators and customers. The approach will see many companies providing the components that make up a mobile network site, where previously, one vendor would have delivered the whole solution. The technology is widely accepted as a disruptor for the telecommunications industry, and Vodafone is one of the industry leaders in supporting the development of this vendor ecosystem.
Whereas much of the focus for Open RAN has been directed towards network infrastructure deployment on mobile sites throughout the UK, the technology can be implemented in an enterprise environment to support local connectivity requirements. As an interoperable and standardized technology, Open RAN solutions can be integrated with little disruption in a "plug and play" manner, interoperable with other Open RAN compliant vendors.
"From the moment Open RAN is deployed in an office environment, customers are no longer locked into a single upgrade path," added Dona. "Working with this technology, customers can be more flexible in how connectivity solutions are adapted and upgraded as demands evolve in the future."
Having first started work on a containerized indoor enterprise connectivity solution in January 2021, Vodafone has completed tests for an important stage of the technology roadmap. Containerization means that software can be seamlessly transferred between equipment, platforms, and applications. Wind River provided its Containers as a Service (CaaS) software, part of Wind River Studio.
The plug-and-play small cell equipment can ensure comprehensive mobile coverage in every corner of the office. The solution will provide 4G coverage initially, making use of radio hardware from Sercomm and software from Mavenir (Open RAN). This demonstration of a containerized solution is a major milestone in the evolution of connectivity equipment away from physical infrastructure to a digital cloud-based environment. Containerization provides greater flexibility for customers but also significant benefits in terms of speed and cost of deployment.
Moving forward, Vodafone and Mavenir will focus on finalizing the packaging and automation of the solution before beginning trials with selected customers.
"Cloud Native and Open Solutions are becoming the new reality of the mobile world, and these include Radio Access and its containerized implementation," said Stefano Cantarelli (News - Alert), Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Mavenir. "Open vRAN is a very flexible architecture that can serve any type of segment, and Mavenir is really pleased to work with Vodafone in the enterprise business and achieve another first together. It is an opportunity to show that automated and AI-controlled systems will simplify life to business and industry."
Edited by Luke Bellos