Ericsson is the latest big-named vendor to join the O-RAN Alliance, which is looking to form an open standards-based consensus for virtualizing the radio access network (RAN). This virtualized RAN architecture is seen as key to 5G network deployments.
The Swedish vendor will focus its O-RAN Alliance efforts on the open connections between the RAN and network orchestration and automation. This includes using artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled closed-loop automation and end-to-end optimization to lower operating costs and improve network performance.
“Our ambition is to actively support and drive discussions and developments around future RAN architectures and open interfaces,” explained Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden, in a statement.
The O-RAN Alliance was initially formed last summer by the merger of the xRAN Forum and C-RAN Alliance. It has since established seven working groups that look at use cases and architecture, radio intelligent controller, fronthaul, stack reference design, cloudification and orchestration, resource information and control, and white-box hardware.
The group in December released its inaugural white paper outlining its architecture and vision. It outlines the specific work of each of its working groups including the software-defined, AI-enabled RAN controller mentioned by Ericsson. The controller decouples the control-plane from the user-plane into the RAN with additional intelligence to increase the efficiency of the RAN and deliver better radio resource management.
Additional work detailed in the paper includes developing key open interfaces, white-box base station hardware, and creating NFV infrastructure (NFVI) and virtual infrastructure management (VIM) specifications. The O-RAN Alliance is also working with the Linux Foundation to establish an open source software community and to create open source RAN software that supports O-RAN architecture and interfaces.
Initial membership was limited to service providers and counts some of the world’s largest telecom operators, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, Verizon, NTT DoCoMo, and Orange. Verizon joined late last year after having been an original member of the xRAN Forum.
The O-RAN Alliance late last year began accepting companies other than service providers to join. Those contributors include Broadcom, Cisco, Intel, Red Hat, and ZTE.
Ericsson’s Nordic rival Nokia, which is also an O-RAN member, last month struck a deal with AT&T to produce a software platform that can develop open source software aligned with the O-RAN target architecture. That platform code will accelerate the deployment of open source software for the 5G radio access network (RAN).