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April 3, 2023

Challenges and Opportunities of Open NetworksChallenges and Opportunities of Open Networks

What new opportunities can 5G Open Networks create for operators and what does ‘open’ really mean for them?

Challenges and opportunities of open networks

Challenges and Opportunities of Open NetworksChallenges and Opportunities of Open Networks

Challenges and opportunities of open networks
What new opportunities can 5G Open Networks create for operators and what does ‘open’ really mean for them?

Much has been written about how 5G Open Networks represent an opportunity for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to increase efficiency and flexibility in their networks. ‘Open’, particularly in the Radio Access Network (RAN), provides a way out of closed network ecosystems, opening doors to a broader world of creativity, flexibility, and innovation in the mobile networks which underpin so much of the lives of individuals and organizations today.

Open RAN looks to enable operators to mix and match components from multiple vendors and goes one step further by opening the interfaces inside the base station itself. This blog post summarizes some of the opportunities 5G Open Networks will create for operators and showcases a new whitepaper from NEC, published in partnership with new windowMobile World Live: “5 Reasons to adopt Open RAN now”.

Last RAN standing

According to new windowAllied Market Research, approximately 80% of network spend goes into the RAN, yet it is still the last network function standing as a locked-down, aggregated vertical stack. This completely contradicts the global trend of openness and disaggregation, as communications technology networks have modernized every aspect of commerce and information sharing – from software-defined networks (SDNs) to network function virtualization (NFV).

An open network can also be defined as one in which the underlying infrastructure is available for use by multiple parties rather than being proprietary to a single operator. Open networks allow for greater innovation and competition and drive new business models and services. In the context of 5G, open networks enable MNOs to share resources and collaborate more easily with partners, such as other operators, content providers, and technology service providers. For example, an MNO operating in rural areas can utilize network slicing technology to share resources with partners and reduce the cost of deployment.

With a truly open approach to building a network ecosystem, operators can disaggregate the final piece of the puzzle and embrace the freedom of choice and accelerated innovation that comes with it.

The unrealized potential of 4G and 5G

Throughout the last decade, MNOs have remained focused on value optimization in the last mile rather than capturing value in the ‘digitalization’ of society. If operators can evolve their businesses and skillsets and adapt to the new world of open networks and ubiquitous, smart connectivity, their futures can be successfully defined for the coming decades.

Open RAN deployment will be gradual rather than rapid because it’s a complex transformation that requires careful assessment.  Operators are running critical national infrastructure and have obligations toward customers, regulators, and even governments. They cannot make technological changes lightly and telecom supplier diversification doesn’t happen overnight. Introducing a new vendor into those environments is complex and may take several years.

However, there is a shift happening in operator mindsets towards a more 360-degree perspective on network planning, procurement, and operational organization. This change will still take time to fully materialize, but much can be done during the transformation stage.

Cloudification delivers transformational opportunities for operators

5G open networks will accelerate the migration of products and services to the cloud. Leveraging cloud computing and 5G technology creates advantages that enterprises of all kinds will be able to benefit from. With services like Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), Mobile Cloud Computing (MCC), and various networking architectures, including network slicing, the impending release of 5G services will result in the eventual commencement of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) capabilities which operators can offer to businesses in all verticals.

An open network management platform also enables operators to go one step further towards offering differentiated, customizable, and on-demand network-as-a-service solutions and delivering them in an agile way to each customer. This increases access to new greenfield business opportunities in enterprise and the public sectors and creates more flexibility to continue growing in the cloud-native world. All these will allow operators to better monetize their investments in 5G and beyond.

Embracing change

The industry must embrace open thinking to drive far-reaching change and unlock the true potential of 5G. Collectively, we have an opportunity to create a truly connected society that takes full advantage of real-time communication, entertainment, and ready access to information from connected buildings, vehicles, classrooms, factories, and hospitals. It’s a radical change, an opportunity to leap into the future where our world is better connected, making lives safer, healthier, smarter, and more productive.

The whitepaper “5 Reasons to adopt Open RAN now” explores the current state of Open RAN development and offers five reasons operators and vendors should make the switch today.

Download the paper here to find out more about the industry’s experiences with initial trials and deployments and how Open RAN will define success in 5G and beyond.

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