Who will win the Open RAN tug of war?

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A new report from Rethink Research examines the possible routes to Open RAN and why it is so important.

Many operators are pushing for a more open RAN (radio access network) approach – that is, the ability to integrate, deploy and operate radio access networks using components and software from multiple suppliers, connected via open interfaces. They see this as key to bringing down total cost of ownership, driving price competition and gaining access to a wider base of innovation than just five major OEMs.

There’s also an element of wanting to “ wrest control” of the technology agenda from vendors, according to a new report from Rethink Research co-founder Caroline Gabriel.

How to get to Open RAN

The Open RAN architecture set to disrupt 5G landscape report notes, though, that there is still no clear agreement on the way ahead. It finds that the large equipment manufacturers are mainly hoping to take a traditional and proprietary approach because of the large sums they have already invested, while operators insist that they break up the RAN into separate open functions, where every vendor offering can interoperate with every other product.

A series of start-ups, exemplar operators and smaller existing equipment vendors are all pushing different varieties of open approaches to the 5G RAN, the report finds.

The report also finds that some operators are concerned about the risks of partnering with an immature and fragmented open solution.

However, the need for a more competitive multi-vendor approach to drive down costs is likely to make Open RAN “irresistible,” Rethink Research says.

This changes everything

A statement from Rethink Research said: “There are a variety of candidate technologies lining up to open the RAN, and operators and vendors alike are pulling in multiple directions – but one thing is certain, what emerges from the early years of 5G will change the shape of the cellular industry forever.

"It is this that will re-introduce competition into the cellular market, driving down price points, which are in turn needed so operators can experiment with new business models.”

Rethink has laid four different potential scenarios for Open RAN, showing what will happen in certain architectures gain leadership at key times.