Open RAN is known for bringing several advantages for operators, like its flexibility, cost or the capacity of improving competition, as it offers a more open radio access network architecture than provided today. But like everything, open RAN challenges exist and will be discussed in this article.
The benefits that Open RAN will bring to operators can’t be denied. Open RAN is a theme that has been a hot topic in the telecom industry, where telecom companies look at it as a “must have” for the future of its business. However, open RAN challenges should be considered as legitimate concerns that must be taken into consideration before going ahead.
Who solves problems?
One of the biggest challenges in O-RAN when the technology is deployed and a problem happens, is who is solving it. In the traditional technology, when a problem arises, operators can easily work with just one single vendor to solve it. But with multiple vendors, this becomes an Open RAN challenge since it becomes more difficult to solve problems that sometimes may be easy to overcome.
As seen before, having multiple vendors may be a huge problem, bringing complexity to this list. With more than one vendor in RAN, increases the necessity of integration efforts and more resources. Plus, the management will need new platforms and skilled engineers to design, develop, deploy and even adapt this new architecture, increasing the costs.
Although telecom companies setting goals for its carbon neutrality in the next year, O-RAN may challenge those goals. The power consumption in Open RAN has been 3 to 4 times higher than in a traditional S-RAN setup, which means that it would be way harder to achieve the carbon neutrality goals.
However, this Open RAN challenge may have a solution in sight since chip makers are designing specific chipsets that work better for open RAN requires, optimizing the power consumption of equipment.
One of the biggest concerns with Open RAN, is with its operability. With a wide range of components being used by different users, the necessity to test this architecture is even more important before it goes into the live networks.
Although lots of professionals thinking that is only needed to test the interoperability of distinct vendors technology, as part of an Open RAN set-up, the reality is different. Operators must also see how this technology interacts with legacy 4G equipment in the network, and how it responds to different UE environments.
It is known that new technologies bring new security risks, especially when more vendors enter into a RAN through their interfaces. With several numbers of individual elements and consequently several network connections, Open RAN becomes way more insecure than a closed architecture.
The O-RAN Alliance (world-wide community of mobile network operators, vendors, and research & academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network (RAN) industry) is working in a more secure architecture with its Security Task Force, to overcome this situation.
On resume, although a big piece of the telco industry having the eyes on an open architecture because of its benefits, Open RAN challenges still need lots of work from organizations to overcome them.
Organizations like O-RAN Alliance, with the help of its member and contributors, are already working on solutions for most of these challenges.