Fronthaul specifications released by O-RAN Alliance to open 5G RAN

via Flickr © Pug50 (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © Pug50 (CC BY 2.0)

  • Mobile telcos and OEMs pledge to use them to open the RAN
  • Production to start this year
  • O-RAN Alliance members will showcase six strategic proof-of-concepts at MWC

The much anticipated development of open fronthaul for 5G radio access networks may be on the way. The O-RAN Alliance announced this week that it will be releasing the first O-RAN standard Open Fronthaul Specifications comprised of control, user, synchronization and management plane protocols.

Mobile industry leaders are not just hailing O-RAN fronthaul specifications as a good thing, but are pledged to use the specs to drive multi-vendor radio access networks and are poised, they claim, to start production this year.

They’re rolling out a series of demos at Mobile World Congress next week to prove the point.

RAN fronthaul is where interoperability is engineered between the baseband and radio units using standards. If adhered to it means multiple radio units within a RAN can have their signals  front hauled from a single baseband unit. That has all sorts of cost advantages because of the consolidation (depending on the deployment scenario). But it also means that radio heads and baseband units may ultimately be mixed and matched to create a fully multi-vendor RAN.

This level of interoperability may even turn out to be mandated in the interests of security, since it means that a mobile network is not necessarily reliant on any one vendor. If faults (or security flaws) are identified with a any set of components, they can be stripped out and replaced.

A long list of telcos and OEMs are now pledged to adopt the fronthaul specifications of the Open Radio Access Network Alliance (O-RAN) and are set to test or introduce O-RAN-compliant products in commercial 5G networks from this year onwards. The vendors have started developing O-RAN-compliant products, and have either started or plan to conduct multi-vendor interoperability testing.

Here - deep breath - are the companies involved: KDDI Corporation, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, KT Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, INC., Orange, SK Telecom, SoftBank Corp., Telefónica, TIM, Verizon Communications Inc., Cisco, Fujitsu Limited., HFR Networks, Inc., Intel Corporation, Keysight Technologies, Inc., Mavenir, NEC Corporation, Nokia, Pivotal Commware, Radisys (R) Corporation, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., SOLiD and VIAVI.

An O-RAN industry event will kick off the MWC activities on Monday February 25th at 6:00pm, hosted by Deutsche Telekom on its stage in Hall 3. Following this event, O-RAN Alliance members will showcase six strategic proof-of-concepts across various member booths covering four key themes: intelligent RAN control, Open Interfaces, virtualization and white box.

Demo 1.  "O-RAN aligned implementation of Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC) Load Balancing" showcases predictive load balancing using Smart Radio Fingerprint technology that provides opportunities to interoperability using O-RAN architecture interfaces and established industry elements. The solution enables the accurate redirection of UE attachment, optimized load balancing, and improved user experience. This demo is being sponsored and hosted by China Mobile and ZTE at their respective booths.

Demo 2. “AI empowered User Quality of Experience (QoE),” showcases predictive user QoE enabled by machine learning microservices chained together, to autonomously recognize traffic types in real-time, predict quality and provide closed-loop network controls resulting in a consistent, high-quality 5G user experience. This demo is being sponsored by China Mobile and Nokia; and hosted in the China Mobile booth.

Demo 3.  “Open Fronthaul Interface,” showcases the use of O-RAN’s Open Front Haul specification with a variety of vendors to achieve interoperability between the O-DU and O-RU enabled by a fully specified control, user, synchronization and management plane protocols. This demo is being sponsored by Verizon, NTT DOCOMO, KT Corporation, SK telecom, Fujitsu, HFR, Intel, Keysight, Mavenir, NEC and SOLiD; and hosted by NTT DOCOMO, KT Corporation, Keysight, Mavenir and NEC at their respective booths.

Demo 4. “Virtualized O-CU on Akraino edge cloud orchestrated by ONAP,” showcases the integration of virtualized CU with a community supported Akraino edge stack blueprint packaged into a “cloud appliance” enabling the flexibility of virtualization and cloud, while retaining the simplicity and low cost of an appliance. This demo is being sponsored by AT&T and Nokia; and hosted in the Nokia booth.

Demo 5. “Programmable mmWave White-Box Radio Unit,” showcases a mmWave smart O-RU transmitting a 5G NR signal with 100MHz bandwidth using a 5G open RAN test platform and a 28 GHz O-RU white box with a beamformed active antenna system to two UEs test emulators. This demo is being sponsored by AT&T, Anokiwave, Ball Aerospace, Xilinx and Keysight; and hosted in the Xilinx booth.

Demo 6. “Open hardware reference design for sub 6GHz indoor coverage,” showcase two live demos of white-box and general-purpose hardware supporting sub 6GHz indoor coverage deployment scenarios for both 4G and 5G. The first demo is being sponsored by China Mobile, Lenovo, Baicells; and hosted at Lenovo booth. The second demo is being sponsored by China Telecom, Intel, H3C; and hosted in the Intel booth.

For more information about the MWC demos and their locations link to on your mobile device.

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