Juniper joins the Open RAN RIC club

  • Juniper and Türk Telekom have put skin in each other’s Open RAN game by agreeing a “one-of-a-kind partnership between a supplier and a customer” 
  • They are joining an increasingly crowded field as the industry recognises the crucial role of the RAN Intelligent Controller 

Juniper Networks and Türk Telekom have joined forces to put the finishing touches to the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) developed by Türk Telekom subsidiary Netsia. Under the deal - which involves an exclusive global licensing agreement - Juniper ends up with all the rights to Netsia’s RIC, but in return it has to develop the code further and make sure it works for Türk Telekom’s Open RAN integration, using Juniper kit (no small task in its own right). Ultimately, Türk Telekom should get a functioning Open RAN and Juniper a RIC, which is the 'brain' of an Open RAN deployment, to sell to other customers. Presumably, Türk Telekom also wins a hefty discount for the Juniper technology and support it’s going to be consuming.

Juniper and Netsia are both active members of the O-RAN Alliance, and they describe the deal as a “one-of-a-kind partnership between a supplier and a customer” - a testament, they claim, to new ways of collaboration (and risk sharing) in the brave new world of Open RAN, where the RIC is certain to play a crucial role. They claim Netsia’s RIC has been in development for five years and has already undergone multiple proofs of concept and trials with several service providers. 

The RIC comes in two forms: There’s the 'Near real-time RIC', which hosts xApps (such as SON tools and security apps) and collects data that is used for network optimization; And there’s the ‘Non real-time RIC’, which performs network management tasks such as fault and device management.

Getting the Open RAN development process right via a RIC is an important piece in the Open RAN jigsaw puzzle and Juniper and Türk Telekom are, naturally enough, not the only ones with skin in the RIC game. Many vendors are in the race to develop the optimum RIC for the fast expanding market.

Just this week cloud native radio access network software vendor, Airhop, announced its membership of the ONF and joined its Software Defined Radio Access Network (SD-RAN) project to help build a “near-real-time RAN Intelligent Controller (n-RT-RIC) along with a set of exemplar xApps for controlling the RAN.” 

Back in November big Open RAN fan, Vodafone, announced it was working with Parallel  Wireless’ Near Real-time Intelligent Controller, located in a Dublin data centre, for its Open RAN deployment at 30 locations in Ireland 

In the same month, Mavenir and Bharti Airtel demonstrated an O-RAN Intelligent Controller at the Global O-RAN Alliance Plugfest hosted by the Indian operator, making great play of the advanced machine learning Mavenir had set to work for the project. It says its long-term objective is to make the RIC “configurable by the operator, guiding the optimization process to meet potentially dynamically changing business requirements at runtime.” 

At that same plugfest, which involved 55 major industry players, STL & ASOCS demonstrated mobility load balancing with a ‘near real time’ RIC. 

VMware and Deutsche Telekom are also collaborating on an Open RAN solution featuring a VMware-developed pre-standard, near-real-time RAN Intelligent Controller that will adopt O-RAN open interfaces to enable real-time radio resource management capabilities to be delivered as applications on top of the platform, they claim.

In June last year, Nokia and AT&T conducted a live trial of their co-developed RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) over the operator’s commercial 5G mmWave network in New York City using an Open Cloud Platform based on the LF Edge-developed Akraino open source software stack.

Those are just some of the intelligent controller projects currently under way for Open RAN and we expect to see more alliances and developments announced through 2021.

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