Tuning radio access network technology for 5G services
The radio access network (RAN) market has experienced considerable momentum owing to the rapid evolution of communication networks in recent years. RAN forms part of a telecom system which connects a device to other parts of a network via radio connections. Although the industry had witnessed significant push globally following the adoption of LTE, RAN equipment providers are set to feel a tremendous boost from increased 5G network demand, says Pankaj Singh, research content developer at Global Market Insights.
As the next-gen mobile network gains traction throughout the globe, numerous telcos, hardware and software providers have become engrossed in developing the best way to roll out network services for the public and for enterprises. RAN architecture is evolving with continuous adoption of software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) across network infrastructure.
Now, with some terminologies becoming an everyday sight in the communication space, like cloud RAN, open RAN or 5G slicing, RAN market trends are expected to be outlined by regional adoption, Internet of Things (IoT) penetration and leading industry partnerships aimed at meeting different challenges in the implementation of 5G networks.
How can 5G technology transform the RAN and telecommunication services landscape?
Network operators and equipment manufacturers are gearing up for the commercial launch of 5G, and 5G network slicing will be a key aspect of their growth strategy. Slicing will allow operators to divide parts of their network for designated consumer base, depending of sperate use cases, as well as fuel the demand for RAN sites.
These could include deployment in healthcare applications, industrial IoT, connected vehicles and power grids, among others. It is expected that 5G network slicing will enable operators to deal with the high cost of implementation while improving the flexibility and efficiency, by providing only those functions required by the customer.
According to the GSMA, more than 1.2 billion 5G connections will be registered by 2025, demonstrating the substantial opportunities for the suppliers of RAN equipment and maintenance & support companies. Experts suggest that network slicing cannot be implemented end-to-end without adopting cloud RAN and virtualisation.
The O-RAN alliance has been formed for providing open and interoperable network interfaces along with promoting RAN virtualisation. Companies like AT&T, Orange, T-Mobile, NTT Docomo, China Mobile, Dish, Reliance Jio, Verizon and several others are a part of this alliance, trying to use deep learning technology for automating network functions.
Through data-based operations and virtualisation, open RAN supporting RAN infrastructure can help carriers reduce complexity, lower their operational costs and speed up innovations in a fast approaching 5G world. In fact, Telecom Italia has confirmed that it had conducted trials for open and virtual radio access networks with some partners, which led to nearly 50% cost savings in software expenses.
Why will the deployment of open radio access network equipment become important?
Radio access technology has scope across various applications, from national mobile networks to smaller, localised connectivity. RAN is the largest component of mobile networks, with a vast number of base stations and cell sites providing the required coverage.
Although telecommunication giants have captured the majority share of network services, smaller carriers in developed countries are ready to take advantage of the tremendous potential of 5G. Inland Cellular, a wireless communications company serving Northwest region in the U.S., has recently teamed up with a leading open-RAN architecture provider for deploying 4G LTE technology, which can be upgraded to 5G through a simple software update.
The technology will deliver a cloud-based virtual RAN architecture to Inland Cellular, for fast and easy deployment, along with enhanced coverage. Through complete interoperability with the legacy infrastructure, it will allow uninterrupted service for Inland’s subscribers during upgradation.
Increased acceptance of 5G by small communities will also impact the development of RAN technology and services. For instance, the Montgomery County Council, U.S., has re-proposed a zoning amendment than could allow the installation of small cell sites near residences and other buildings, which is currently banned under the County’s laws.
The move by the Council was instigated by the need to implement 5G technology and provide the fastest wireless connections that will benefit all the Country residents and businesses. As more such initiatives are undertaken to endorse 5G networks, more communication equipment will be deployed worldwide and present innovative prospects for providers of cloud-driven RAN architecture.
Global Market Insights Inc. has a market report dedicated to global radio access network, available here
The author is Pankaj Singh, research content developer at Global Market Insights