O-RAN allows telecommunication infrastructure to “plug and play” new innovations to create a more sustainable network.
Where we are today
As a consumer, you’d be surprised to find incompatible phone or laptop chargers, headphones (unless you’re still sporting that vintage 3mm audio jack), wireless accessories on Bluetooth, etc. This flexibility did not appear overnight; it took many years and in some cases regulatory intervention (*cough* *cough* USB-C…) to get here. The benefit with “plug and play” is the ability to experience new innovation (whether it is the newest noise-cancelling headphones or 600 Hz monitor) as long as it meets the common interface requirements. The same cannot be said for telecommunication networks: in most cases they are still proprietary end to end.
Historically, a network is built by one equipment vendor, so innovations need to be implemented into that vendor’s equipment. There are benefits to this method: seamless compatibility, no need for a system integrator, centralized maintenance, economies of scale, etc. The consequence is a lack of flexibility which is becoming more painful as demands on the telecommunication network grow. New applications are increasing the demand for connectivity (autonomous vehicles) and new innovations want to help meet the demand for connectivity (intelligent controllers, virtualization, etc.). The network needs to be flexible and receptive to these changes.
What is O-RAN?
O-RAN (Open Radio Access Network) has been developed to create more flexibility in telecommunication infrastructure. It is a set of standardized components and firmware interfaces that enable vendors to develop compatible, “plug and play” equipment. Operators or system integrators can mix and match components from different vendors for greater customization and faster implementation of new innovations.
O-RAN has defined three major components in the RAN:
- Radio Unit (RU): The radio unit produces the signals to communicate with end devices, such as phones, smart cars, or sensors. At the top of cell towers, they usually consist of initial digital processing and a transmitter which communicates with the antenna (Eridan’s new technology sits inside an RU).
- Distributed Unit (DU): The distributed unit takes care of the majority of the digital processing needed before connecting to the network core. They can be found at or near the base of cell towers.
- Centralized Unit (CU): The centralized unit connects to the network core. This functionality can be hosted in a nearby datacenter or in the cloud.
The interfaces on which these components interact are defined by Functional System Split options numbered 1 through 8, with option 7.2x being commonly used. Using these Splits, components can communicate with each other seamlessly regardless of vendor source.
The impact of O-RAN
As a major technological innovation in RF signal generation, Eridan has developed a better subsystem inside the RU. Our novel transmitter architecture can result in up to 10x power savings (read more about power savings), 25% better spectral utilization (read more about spectral efficiency), and significantly reduced installation costs (read more about installation costs). We ensure that our subsystem meets the relevant O-RAN interface for ease of implementation inside a telecommunications network.
Upgrading our telecommunication networks with new innovations can set us up for a more sustainable and accessible future. Along with Eridan, there are many telecommunication innovations happening from DU+CU virtualization (Fujitsu’s vDU/vCU) to intelligent controllers (Juniper’s RIC solution) and dynamic allocation (Celona’s private dynamic spectrum sharing). The benefits of all these innovations are additive in terms of reduced power consumption, spectrum reuse, installation costs, etc. This leads us to a more sustainable use of our finite resources and increases global connectivity. The fastest way to experience these benefits is by adopting common standards, which is why everyone should care about O-RAN.