Five Takeaways from the Fierce Wireless O-RAN Summit
By LitePointNovember 8, 2023
The Open RAN (O-RAN) Summit offers an opportunity for leaders in the industry to come together and discuss trends and challenges facing the O-RAN industry. Hosted by Fierce Wireless, the most recent summit included the panel “Troubleshooting & Integration in the Muti-Vendor RAN,” which addressed the challenges and future direction of a multi-vendor RAN landscape.
LitePoint’s Khushboo Kalyani joined the panel along with moderator, Monica Paolini, principal of Senza Fili, as well as panlists Eugina Jordan, CMO at the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), Elif Yirmibes, Innovation Hub & Open RAN Product Performance senior manager at Vodafone, and Warren Bayek, VP of technology at Wind River. As this insightful conversation unfolded, five major takeaways emerged from the group.
1. Balancing Compatibility, Interoperability and Performance
Today’s O-RAN environment is increasingly diverse and disaggregated as a growing number of vendors enter the marketplace, each offering widely varying solutions. With more vendors entering the arena, and with each offering multiple solutions, the number of possible combinations for testing grows exponentially – making compatibility testing a complex task.
Moving forward, the industry also must navigate the trade-offs between interoperability and performance. Achieving high performance often requires system integrators to optimize hardware and software from different vendors, which can compromise interoperability. For instance, a solution developed for low latency applications might not be compatible with another designed for high throughput, even though both are critical telecommunications performance metrics.
To further confound the issue, vendors frequently update their solutions, and each of their updates potentially changes the compatibility landscape, requiring system integrators to repeat testing and validation. This creates a dynamic environment where testing requirements are continually shifting, making it challenging to maintain a stable, interoperable network.
2. Testing Strategies
Much of the panel addressed different testing strategies that are affecting today’s O-RAN environment. Two prominent strategies include Resource Driven Testing and Selective Front Haul Testing.
Testing should never be an aimless exercise. Instead, it should be a targeted activity that aligns with specific business scenarios and use cases. This approach, known as Resource-Driven Testing, ensures that companies are not squandering valuable resources on tests that don’t provide actionable insights. By focusing on real-world applications, organizations can uncover issues that are most likely to impact end-users and business operations.
Selective Front Haul Testing
In the context of “Front Haul” options, there is a need for a community-driven approach to identify which options are most relevant for deployment. This prevents unnecessary testing and aligns the testing process with actual market needs. By narrowing the options that need to be tested, enterprises can significantly reduce the complexity and duration of the testing process.
3. Automation and Management
The panel highlighted the need for automation platforms to manage the complexity and sheer number of components to be tested. For example, automation in O-RAN testing can decrease operating costs because new learning-based technologies simplify operational actions.
Within this, an automation platform, referred to as the “conductor automation platform,” was discussed as a solution for managing a diverse array of solutions, providers and network equipment.
The conductor automation platform aims to provide a unified view of the entire network. Imagine having a single dashboard capable of monitoring, managing and making decisions about every component in the network, regardless of the vendor or technology. This is particularly beneficial for lifecycle management, as it allows for real-time monitoring and maintenance, thereby extending the lifespan of network components and ensuring optimal performance.
From a business perspective, the platform can reduce operational costs by automating routine tasks and by improving network reliability and performance. This, in turn, enhances customer satisfaction, providing a strong competitive advantage in a market where users are increasingly intolerant of downtime and poor performance.
4. Business-Centric Approach
The need for a business-centric approach to solution development emerged as a theme shared by the panelists. This approach demands that solutions are scalable while also providing a strong correlation between R&D and manufacturing.
While solutions that can’t scale quickly become obsolete, scalability shouldn’t be pursued in isolation. It needs to be part of a broader business strategy that accounts for other critical factors such as cost, time-to-market and customer needs.
At the same time, any disconnect between R&D and manufacturing can lead to increased production costs, as designs that are theoretically sound may prove to be overly complex and expensive to manufacture. A tightly integrating R&D and manufacturing roadmap ensures that solutions aren’t just technically sound but also viable from a business perspective.
5. Unresolved Challenges (Managing a Crowded Ecosystem)
In conclusion, the panel acknowledged a number of unresolved challenges associated with managing an increasingly crowded O-RAN ecosystem – with one panelist remarking that the numbers of suppliers they engage in the 5G space has ballooned from about five just a few years ago to more than 120 today.
Against this backdrop, the panel posed several open-ended questions targeting collaborative problem-solving:
- Prioritization: How does the ecosystem decide which combinations of solutions and vendors to test first?
- Standardization: Is there a role for industry-wide standards to reduce complexity?
- Automation: Can automation technologies help manage complexity more efficiently?
- Collaboration: How can operators, vendors and other stakeholders work together more effectively to manage the crowded ecosystem?
While a joint tactical approach was left open-ended, the consensus was that these challenges require a multi-pronged approach involving a blend of collaboration, standardization and advanced automation tools.
LitePoint Leads the Way
LitePoint was pleased to join other industry leaders on the panel. Clearly, the O-RAN industry has many challenges that require continued thought leadership and partnership. To that end, LitePoint is committed to enabling and accelerating the O-RAN ecosystem by providing a comprehensive and simplified RF test solution that aims to ensure high-performance wireless test right from product development to manufacturing.
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