Leading telecom operators — Deutsche Telekom, Orange, TIM, Telefonica, and Vodafone Group – said they achieved progress in improving the maturity, security, and energy efficiency of new Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN).
With global deployments now reaching tens of thousands of sites (mainly executed by new operators in greenfield deployments), Open RAN is closing the gap with traditional mobile radio networks in terms of feature parity and performance. They are expecting full-scale deployments of Open RAN across Europe in 2025.
The report called Open RAN MoU Progress Update on Maturity, Security and Energy Efficiency outlines the key areas of focus for the operators in 2023. These include assisting with the development of Open RAN technologies to allow for wider deployment in highly populated towns and cities than is currently possible, strengthening cooperation with national authorities on security, including the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), and enhancing energy efficiency of all components, with particular focus on the radio transmitters and cloud infrastructure.
Operators’ agenda for 2023
Open RAN deployments are already visible in markets such as the UK and North America, facilitated by government support. In Europe, small deployments (trials) are in place, new pilots are announced for this year and larger scale deployments are expected from 2025. A key focus in 2023 will be around maturity of 5G for urban areas and minimizing system integration overheads by maturing certification delivered through industry communities.
Operators cooperate with the national authorities to share information on security, implementation, and management of Open RAN. They requested to formally include Open RAN as part of the GSMA security assurance scheme (NESAS) and the EU’s 5G certification scheme defined by ENISA.
Reports such as the EU NIS Co-operation Group’s assessment of Open RAN security, published in June 2022, have helped to develop strong security controls for specification, development, procurement, system integration, testing and operations.
Deutsche Telekom, Orange, TIM, Telefónica, and Vodafone, as a minimum, will:
Apply all the mandatory controls defined by the O-RAN ALLIANCE and 3GPP security specifications themselves and throughout the supply chain.
Follow a zero trust approach to every vendor as they do today, and ensure industry established standards and specifications such as 3GPP and O-RAN ALLIANCE, requirements from national authorities and risk profiles of vendors are correctly captured and assessed during upcoming operator procurement processes.
Address outstanding gaps in security specifications through the O-RAN ALLIANCE. For example, the O-RAN ALLIANCE Security Work Group (WG11) recently introduced new security control mechanisms for certain interfaces; these new specifications were completed in November last year and will be published in February 2023.
The availability of energy efficient hardware combined with ‘sleep modes’ is helping Open RAN at least match the energy efficiency of existing mobile sites. Open RAN MoU operators are collaborating with the industry to increase the energy efficiency of all the Open RAN components, with particular focus on radio transmitters and cloud infrastructure.
Open RAN radio units (the transmitters) consume the most power. Currently, their energy efficiency already falls within the typical range seen with traditional RAN, and will further improve thanks to dynamic sleep mode based on actual traffic needs.
Operators note that the energy efficiency of cloud infrastructure is improving, thanks to advancements in CPU and ‘accelerator’ (special silicon chip) technologies, as well as cooling systems for servers. Operators are proposing a general framework for energy monitoring of all appropriate parts of the Open RAN system, including real-time reporting, tools and methodologies to achieve greater automation. The aim is to present the resulting framework for standardisation in ETSI for a harmonized methodology to be used across the whole industry.
Abdu Mudesir, Group CTO Deutsche Telekom, said: “Open RAN has matured over the last months and our initial commercial deployment will start soon. Open RAN will enrich the mobile ecosystem with new capabilities and innovation that will bring value to our customers and society.”
Michael Trabbia, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Orange, said: “The progress made recently by the Open RAN industry has given us the assurance that open and cloud-native RAN is now geared up for first commercial deployments in brownfield networks within Europe from 2023 onwards.”
Elisabetta Romano, Chief Network, Operations & Wholesale Officer of TIM, said: “Network Innovation is increasingly focusing on agility, security and sustainability.”
Enrique Blanco, Global CTIO, Telefonica, said: “OpenRAN will evolve the vendor ecosystem and revolutionize the current 5G industry in the medium to long term.”
Alberto Ripepi, Chief Network Officer (CNO) of Vodafone, said: “We aim to allay any fears about Open RAN’s suitability as the technology of choice to foster greater vendor diversity and take Europe forward in the digital era.”