Open RAN Momentum: A Year of Technological Evolution  

Open RAN

Hans Geerdes
Principal Strategist

Mark Poletti
Director, Wireless Network Technologies

Feb 2, 2024

Key Points

  • Advancements in Open RAN over the past year are evidence that it continues to evolve toward adoption.
  • Open Testing and Integration Centers (OTICs) around the world — including one at Kyrio, a CableLabs subsidiary — enable cooperation among vendors.

The Open RAN ecosystem has continued to evolve over the past year, taking major steps forward and gaining more credence and industry acceptance. In case you’re not up to speed, here’s an at-a-glance view of some of these promising new developments.

Significant new investments are driving scale and innovation. 

  • In September, Vodafone and Samsung kicked off a massive deployment of 2,500 disaggregated and virtualized cell sites, providing 4G and 5G services across the United Kingdom.
  • In September, Ericsson announced it will introduce support for open fronthaul across its Cloud RAN and radio portfolios starting this year. In December, AT&T committed to large-scale Open RAN and selected Ericsson as its vendor. 
  • The NTIA awarded the first grants from the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund program for Open RAN technologies in 2023 and a recent round in early 2024 to academic institutions, DISH and Viavi.
  • In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it will invest in private Open RAN 5G to leverage innovation in that ecosystem.

Maturing RIC and automation gear up for differentiating performance and efficiency.  

  • Vodafone has been vocal about its Open RAN deployments, delivering performance as good as or better than that of the company’s traditional RAN sites.
  • DISH reported record-low cost due to highly efficient operations and automation.
  • Open RAN vendors such as Mavenir are marketing artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) solutions that make full use of the data exposed by open interfaces.
  • At the Open RAN North America conference in December, multiple operators discussed the intricacies and maturity of their evolving RIC implementations.
  • The U.S. government is propelling RIC advancements:  In March, the agency will host a RIC forum with live demonstrations of leading vendors’ RIC capabilities.

New OTICs and service offerings facilitate integration and adoption.

  • Integrating various vendors’ gear to work together is one of the key challenges for Open RAN adoption. Open Testing and Integration Centers (OTICs) like the one at CableLabs’ subsidiary, Kyrio, facilitate this kind of cooperation, hosting multiple PlugFests to advance Open RAN features and performance. Several new OTICs have been added in 2023, most recently at MITRE in the U.S. and a group of companies in South Korea.
  • Several operators and vendors, including Docomo and Ericsson, have announced new service offerings and pre-integrated configurations to ease Open RAN adoption.

Although there’s still a long way to go before Open RAN architectures become widely adopted, these advancements show that the technology is steadily evolving and here to stay.

If you’re planning to attend Mobile World Congress/MWC Barcelona this month, join us for the O-RAN ALLIANCE Summit. The summit is the first major gathering of this community in conjunction with an MWC event, further underscoring the industry’s continued interest in Open RAN.