Rajeev Shah is the Co-Founder and CEO of em data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.celona.io/"">>Celona, a Silicon Valley-based pioneer and innovator of enterprise 5G LAN solutions.
As companies rush to build and run their own 5G networks, new questions about the value and viability of the industry's O-RAN movement loom large.
There’s big buzz within the telecom industry centered around the move to open and standardize the cellular radio access network (RAN), the part of the network that sends and receives cellular radio signals from user devices.
Yet what’s missing from this hype is the usefulness — or, rather, lack thereof — for enterprises looking to adopt 5G as a strategic technology to supercharge their businesses.
Dubbed Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN), the effort involves the separation of software from hardware on cellular access points. This allows the software in cellular radios to be run anywhere on common off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware such as those based on Intel x86 and ARM architectures.
O-RAN effectively virtualizes RAN functions such as signal and packet processing, protocol conversion and encryption with standardized interfaces, maximizing the use of common hardware to allow vendor diversity.
Goodness For Telcos
Being driven by the O-RAN Alliance, the idea is to create a more competitive and diverse ecosystem of 5G suppliers using interoperable specifications that allow providers to pick and choose from different vendors.
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By doing this, 5G telcos operating massive 5G networks are in a much better position to reduce costs and increase the flexibility of how and where to deploy cellular nodes.
The truth is that the O-RAN movement was conceived to help telcos address supplier diversity by moving toward a software-defined architecture that provides operational cost efficiency and flexibility. This helps the vendor ecosystem to turn themselves into software companies while challenging the incumbents by making it harder for them to differentiate themselves through largely hardware-based solutions.
But what about the enterprise?
While ideal for 5G carriers, the viability and value of O-RAN for the exploding private mobile network market remain to be seen.
According to a recent report from IDC, the private LTE/5G infrastructure market is forecast to grow from $945 million in 2019 to over $5.7 billion by 2024, a 43.4% compound annual growth (CAGR) rate.
The rapid adoption of a new unlicensed cellular spectrum, such as CBRS, is enabling enterprises to own and operate their own private 5G networks. Now, 5G wireless technology can be accessible to enterprise IT organizations to accelerate the adoption of business-critical mobile devices and vital applications that need to run over a more deterministic wireless medium. Heretofore, conventional wireless technology just hasn’t been up for this task.
Like the evolution of the wireless LAN (WLAN) market that introduced Wi-Fi technology into businesses, the new so-called “5G LAN” market is evolving much in the same manner.
Yet enterprise wireless architecture has historically never welcomed a “split radio” model. Instead, it has embraced integrated solutions overlaid across the existing corporate network infrastructure. Therefore, the basic premise behind standardizing interfaces between the RAN components isn’t actually useful for many companies that can’t employ an army of network and IT staff to figure everything out.
In fact, trying to shoehorn this technology into the enterprise ecosystem adds unneeded complexity along with new cabling/infrastructure requirements that significantly increase the total cost of ownership.
Simplicity is the key for enterprise IT.
By focusing on the introduction of 5G technology as a simple overlay, much like how companies deploy Wi-Fi today, enterprises can significantly reduce costs while fully integrating the cellular network within the existing enterprise IT network and policy framework.
While there might be some cases where the centralized coordination of the “split RAN” options make sense in private networks, centralizing the RAN functions has never historically resulted in enough performance gains to justify the cost. There’s no evidence yet to suggest that O-RAN will be any different for enterprises now deploying private mobile networks.
For enterprises, this type of O-RAN model essentially means a totally separate infrastructure. With O-RAN, the cost and complexity are even higher due to high-end cabling like fiber. RAN intelligent controllers (RICs) and baseband units must be installed to connect all the various virtualized components.
Traditional cellular networks are composed of individual components that are sourced from multiple vendors and integrated by MNOs. While this model continues in the telco 5G ecosystem — including the RAN, mobile core network and orchestration layers — it doesn’t work for enterprises because it leaves the heavy cost and operational burden of integration to enterprise IT staff or system integrators.
Most enterprises don’t want the complexity, cost and massively long lead times associated with building an elaborate cellular network. For them, simplicity, affordability and seamless integration are imperative. Look no further than to the evolution of enterprise Wi-Fi to see why.
Wireless LAN solutions typically come from a single vendor with a complete system that includes access points, controllers and management platforms — all prepackaged and tuned to work together. Emerging enterprise 5G LANs should mirror this model to ensure successful adoption.
The first step in introducing 5G technology is for organizations to identify the vital business applications that simply won’t tolerate any latency, delay or connectivity problems. This way, monetary value can be directly ascribed to the business in the event of a network problem.
Next, companies need to make an assessment of the IT resources needed to embrace 5G. Opening the radio access network using the O-RAN framework can require extensive cellular expertise that companies might not have.
Finally, companies must weigh the pros and cons of owning the technology versus “renting” it as a service from a carrier.
Ultimately, with new integrated 5G LANs reaching the market, companies must choose a 5G implementation that is IT-friendly and designed from scratch with the enterprise in mind to reap all the benefits that 5G delivers.
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Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/07/23/is-5g-open-ran-dead-on-arrival-for-private-mobile-networks/1496