Today, AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO, and Orange jointly announced the creation of the ORAN Alliance. The ORAN Alliance is a world-wide, carrier-led effort to drive new levels of openness in the radio access network of next generation wireless systems. ORAN will combine and extend the efforts of the C-RAN Alliance and the xRAN Forum into a single operator led effort.
As mobile traffic increases, mobile networks and the equipment that runs them must become more energy efficient (green), software-driven (soft), virtualized, flexible, and intelligent. The ORAN (Open Radio Access Network) Alliance is committed to evolving radio access networks— making them more open and smarter than previous generations. Real-time analytics that drive embedded machine learning systems and artificial intelligence back end modules will empower network intelligence. Additional virtualized network elements with open, standardized interfaces will be key aspects of the reference designs developed by the ORAN Alliance. Technologies from open source and open whitebox network elements will be important software and hardware components of these reference designs.
By combining and extending the objectives of the C-RAN Alliance and the xRAN Forum, the key principles of the ORAN Alliance include:
Leading the industry towards open, interoperable interfaces, RAN virtualization, and big data enabled RAN intelligence.
Maximizing the use of common-off-the-shelf hardware and merchant silicon and minimizing proprietary hardware.
Specifying APIs and interfaces, driving standards to adopt them as appropriate, and exploring open source where appropriate.
“ORAN represents a comprehensive embodiment of Communication 4.0 and is empowered by the true Information, Communications and Data Technology (ICDT) convergence,” said Zhengmao Li, CTO of China Mobile. “It will drive the radio access network from Green and Soft to Open and Smart. And ultimately operators will expect future networks to be built with deeply embedded intelligence, much higher efficiency, lower cost, great agility and flexibility, and all at manageable complexity.”
“To take full advantage of the flexibility of 5G, we have to go beyond the new radios and change the overall architecture of the end-to-end system,” said Andre Fuetsch, President AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer. “Open modularity, intelligent software defined networks, and virtualization will be essential to deliver agile services to our customers. ORAN will accelerate industry progress in these areas.”
“For 5G to unlock new business opportunities and markets, it is essential that we evolve a RAN infrastructure platform that allows us to innovate quickly to meet customer expectations. The ORAN approach, to drive more openness, modularity and programmability in our future networks, can enable a more agile delivery of services to our customers,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Research & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom. “We are excited that the ORAN Alliance will build on and continue the journey we started in XRAN to extend the capabilities of RAN technologies and enable next generation open implementations.”
“5G is expected to facilitate the creation of new vertical markets, the speed of which will be accelerated by the high flexibility and high intelligence derived from open APIs and interfaces,” said Dr. Hiroshi Nakamura, EVP and CTO of NTT DOCOMO. “We have experienced that openness can provide opportunities for expanding markets. We believe that ORAN will evolve open and cost effective radio access networks and that it will further advance them into the next stage.”
“In order to respond to the growth of demanding business capabilities and affordable systems, 5G radio sub-networks need to evolve towards more flexible, open and smarter solutions,” said Emmanuel Lugagne, SVP Orange Labs Networks. “The work of the ORAN alliance will be a perfect driver for the industry to help achieve these promises.”