Open RAN promises many things; disaggregation, virtualization, a wider ecosystem, less reliance on a small number of suppliers, multivendor interoperability, a greater role for white box systems, more cost effective and scalable solutions, faster time to deployment and integration opportunities with edge computing. In time, many of these will be delivered but there is still much to be done. We have seen the first RFIs for open RAN solutions and through groups like the O-RAN Alliance and TIP there are already agreed specifications and proofs of concept. The challenge now is to deliver solutions that deliver on these promises.
There have already been deployments that take an open RAN approach. During 2019 Rakuten deployed virtual Distributed Units (DU) into 4,000 edge sites in Japan. The company worked with four key suppliers to ensure that the cloud core, NFV infrastructure (NFVi), Open Stack based cloud operations and control software, and server hardware, all worked together and was able to deliver the performance needed for LTE. The RAN architecture used is designed to be upgradable to 5G. Rakuten is already working on a second-generation solution that will be more widely deployed.