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OpenRAN: opportunities and challenges

OpenRAN IS, the disaggregation of the radio access network into interconnected parts defined by open, standards-based, interoperable interfaces and using open, standards-based protocols for communicating over those interfaces. What are the opportunities and what are the challenges it faces?

Talking about openRAN

A recent poll run by telecomsTv asked the OpenRAN community “which are the most important areas of focus for the next 12 months?” The simple existence of the poll underlines the growing importance of the technology and its influence in the network world so we thought we’d look into the subject in this blog.

For network operators, Open RAN delivers several obvious advantages that are worth summarising. In essence, it drives:

  1. A more diverse supplier ecosystem
    This will enable telcos to avoid vendor lock-in through proprietary interfaces and instead benefit from a fully disaggregated RAN based on open standards.
  1. Easier service innovation
    Breaking the RAN into component parts simplifies service configuration. Because O-RAN standards are just that: open to all third-party software developers, the development of new types of services built on the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) should drive service innovation.
  1. TCO goes down
    With oRAN, the lifecycle of disaggregated, cloud-native RAN functions is automated. This lowers TCO via a continuous integration/ continuous delivery (CI/CD) cycle as opposed to costly investment cycles.
  1. New sources of revenue
    RAN hardware and software can be customised in open-RAN deployments supporting bespoke features based on specific use cases and deployment scenarios.

But there are challenges

Of course, benefits or not Open RAN faces challenges. Generally, these relate to four cornerstone promises:

  • Open disaggregation
    Allowing Open RAN elements to be sourced from multiple suppliers and implemented in innovative ways
  • Standards-based compliance
    Creating an open, neutral environment in which suppliers can test new solutions against standards
  • Demonstrated interoperability
    Ensuring the disaggregated elements in the Open RAN work together in a fully functional way, at least equalling the performance of legacy solutions.
  • Implementation neutrality
    Enabling suppliers to innovate and differentiate based on product features and performance.

To a great extent, these mesh with the focal areas highlighted by telecomsTV’s survey.

The security issue

“Security measures in oRAN architectures” was highlighted by the survey as one of the areas needing attention. That’s because there’s an inherent security challenge created by shifting to a disaggregated or “open” environment although with that said, those risks exist regardless of the underlying network architecture and arguably new capabilities enabled by 5G should improve security both for traditional and Open RAN. Plus, the benefits of innovation and supplier diversity in an open ecosystem should bring forward additional diverse security solutions to address potential threats and mitigate risk because of the ability to monitor, detect, prevent and respond more quickly.

In a more general sense though, if as noted above not specific to oRAN, security does remain a serious problem for telcos so nothing can be taken for granted. Between 2019 and 2021, fraud in the telco industry increased by 28%[1] and that’s a headache for security professionals. The “boom” in fraud also comes despite the availability of advanced methods and tools specifically designed to combat the problem.

Security is a major issue not least because it’s widespread.  Telco fraud comes in a variety of flavours, leading among which are: International Revenue Sharing, Interconnect Bypass, Arbitrage, PBX Hacking, Traffic Pumping, Subscription Fraud, Account Takeover, SIM Jacking, Wangiri fraud, and Phishing.  Each has its own character but considering Interconnect fraud alone is estimated to cost telcos $2.7 billion per annum[2], none can be ignored.

eContact Services: Helping you to meet the oRAN security challenge

The realities of both openRAN and the security issue present significant opportunities for vendors. At eContact Services we’ve been working highly successfully for several years to turn those opportunities into qualified sales leads. A combination of our understanding of the issues confronting the oRAN telco market and our access to the industry’s key decision-makers via our unique database of prospects has resulted in long-term partnerships with the leading players in the areas of both oRAN and Security Solutions.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you succeed, please click the link (INSERT HERE). We’d happy to speak to you at greater length and learn more about how we could help solve the specific challenges you face.

[1] https://transnexus.com/blog/2021/cfca-fraud-loss-survey-report/

[2] https://seon.io/resources/telecommunications-fraud-detection-and-prevention/

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