Written by Tania Piunno
Kontron had the honor of participating in Day 2 of the Open RAN World Digital Conference, as a super platinum sponsor. We examined the most exciting Open RAN initiatives and deployments with leading service providers worldwide and uncovered the hardware and software requirements needed to boost performance in their networks.
As Gabriel Brown, principal analyst for Mobile Networks at Heavy Reading explained, there remains a gap between the software-defined RAN proof-of-concept (PoC) and the deployable and operable RAN in the real world. And, despite the fact that there is still a lot to do and getting there is quite demanding, things are looking positive and the momentum we are seeing in the industry is outstanding.
For those who could not attend the live conference, we’ve compiled an abstract that explains the ongoing progress in the radio access networks (RAN) ecosystem. Here is your deep-dive into the challenges and best practices for open RAN integration from the experts themselves.
Open RAN Deployment & Integration
Our Director of Product Management, Antoine Sirois sat on a panel with expert speakers from Rakuten, Mavenir, KX and Deutsche Telekom to discuss real-world deployments underway across the globe. Out of all of the issues raised during the conversation, one thing is clear – operators don’t want to be locked in. They’ve expressed the need for flexibility and choices, and this is exactly where open RAN shines. oRAN fundamentally aims to eliminate any vendor lock-in scenario at the radio access network. RAN architecture allows for multi-vendor hardware and software interoperability and enables the interconnection of COTS hardware and open source software elements from different suppliers.
Antoine explained how we’re helping the industry change traditional RAN to something a lot more open. Our goal is to create complete network elasticity as a means to achieve a fully virtualized cloud RAN architecture. Kontron is transforming the way networks operate by placing more servers as close to the end-users as possible in order to have RU (radio unit), DU (distributed unit) and CU (centralized unit) working together and bringing key benefits like multi-vendor interoperability and flexibility. However, the far edge isn’t exactly the easiest environment to work with. Environmental challenges such as snow, ice, fog and heat at the edge make it a lot more difficult for operators to deploy applications, versus the traditional datacenter environment.
Challenges we’re helping solve at the Edge
The datacenter is ideal for use of generic materials built to undertake the software advantage but for even greater benefits, you need to place servers at the far edge, in many environments these are extremely remote locations. At these remote sites, various challenges come into play. Rack space is completely different and limited to small cabinets at the base of a tower that can safely house the server. Power is also different in that only DC is used. Temperature varies constantly and servers must withstand anything between -40°C and +65°C. From an overall compliancy perspective, you need telco grade servers. And, another very important difference is integration capabilities. In a datacenter, you can end up with piles of standard gear, loads of compute and storage, and accelerators in GPU and FPGA form. This works well in a datacenter environment due to ample space, however when you try to move that same concept to the edge, you need to ramp up integration if you want to keep the same functionality.
Kontron solves these problems by building standard x86 servers designed to bring the datacenter to the edge. We’re opening up opportunities for service providers who wish to leverage the principles of disaggregation using commodity hardware. Our series of mobile edge servers support more cores, more memory and increased density in compact, ruggedized form factors. The series also features an outdoor version called the RS1210 which is available in two IP65 variants to resist dust, water, ice and vibrations outdoors. It’s a first of its kind that does not require a cabinet. It can be mounted directly to walls, street poles and mobile towers.
Real-world deployments with tier 1 service providers
Disaggregation using commodity hardware has several benefits that include faster deployments and significant reductions in CAPEX and OPEX. Vodafone and Telefonica are taking full advantage of these cost reductions in their current deployments.
Vodafone U.K pilot in Wales
Vodafone U.K turned on their first Open RAN site in Powys, Wales with Kontron hardware for the distributed unit and software from Mavenir. This project will scale up to 2,600 sites across England over the next couple of years.
Telefonica Open RAN network in Argentina
Telefonica has deployed one of the first mobile networks based on Open RAN in Argentina. This proof-of-concept that covers 81,000 inhabitants, has come to fruition with the help of various technology partners including IBM as the systems integrator, and solutions from Kontron, Altiostar, Red Hat and GigaTera.
With multiple real world deployments underway in many places in the world, you may be wondering what’s next for Kontron. We’ve developing a software solution for security and remote management at the far edge.
Datacenters come with skilled professionals that can easily monitor each system. Unfortunately, having distributed units living in very remote locations require a different kind of expertise. Sending technicians to travel to each site (there can be thousands!) and maintain each system just isn’t ideal.
Security and remote maintenance
Our software solution helps take care of the physical hardware, the BMC, the BIOS and, connects them to a central datacenter where you end up with a similar way of managing it all, but with the required security features demanded for by far edge deployments.
Curious to learn more from the experts themselves? To watch the on-demand version of the live event that took place earlier this month, click here.
If you would like to discuss any future transportation or vRAN projects, feel free to contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.