Open RAN sector still needs to focus on TCO models – poll result

  • TelecomTV has just held its latest Open RAN Summit
  • We asked attendees to identify the most important areas of focus for the Open RAN community
  • More than 230 people voted
  • Total cost of ownership (TCO) models garnered the greatest number of votes, just like last year
  • Systems integration blueprints and RIC development have grown in importance compared with a year ago

The economics of Open RAN are still a concern for an industry that wants to embrace alternative solutions and innovation but has ongoing concerns about cost advantages and the complexity of multi-vendor architectures. 

Those are the key takeaways from the audience poll conducted during TelecomTV’s recent Open RAN Summit, when we asked attendees for guidance on where the sector should focus its energies and attention – and almost 240 people cast their votes. 

The poll question – which was the same as we asked during last year’s Open RAN Summit, allowing us to identify any significant changes over the past year – was ‘Which are the most important areas of focus for the Open RAN community over the next 12 months?’ Respondents could select more than one option.  

Just like last year, the option ‘TCO models and analysis for commercial deployments’ attracted the greatest support, with 62% of all respondents selecting this option, an increase from 53% of respondents that voted for it last year. Clearly there is ongoing concern about the pre-deployment, integration and operating costs associated with the deployment of Open RAN solutions, understandably so. 

Those concerns are often associated with the need to integrate and support best-of-breed solutions from multiple suppliers, whether that is done in-house or through the engagement of a systems integrator (and they never come cheap). 

So it’s, perhaps, not surprising that 50% of respondents believe that ‘Systems integration models and blueprints’ is a very important area of focus for the Open RAN community over the next year – and we heard on a number of occasions during the summit that a great deal of work is underway at the likes of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) on such blueprints. 

This option was chosen by 43% of voters in our 2022 poll, meaning it is now deemed more important and, this year, attracted the second highest number of votes. 

Another major area of current Open RAN discussion is related to the development and potential of RAN intelligent controller (RIC) platforms and the applications (xApps and rApps) that can run on them, so it’s maybe no surprise that 47% of respondents voted for ‘Development of a reliable RIC platform’ as an important area of focus for the Open RAN community, making it our third most popular option in this year’s poll. 

In 2022, the same option attracted votes from 38% of respondents, so RIC developments appear to be becoming more important for the industry. 

What is, perhaps, surprising is that ‘Security measures in Open RAN architectures’ attracted votes from just 43% of respondents this year, making it our fourth most popular option: In 2022 this attracted the second highest number of votes, with 46% of voters identifying it as an important area of focus. So the percentage isn’t that much different – it’s not like Open RAN security is no longer important – but it seems like the community would like to see a greater focus on integration and RIC development in the coming year. 

In fifth place came ‘Acceleration of specification activity’, which attracted votes from 41% of respondents. What is notable here is that in 2022, only 26% of poll voters identified this as an important area of focus, so there is clearly an increasing demand for accelerated Open RAN specifications efforts. 

Slipping from fifth place last year to sixth in the ranking of importance is ‘Open RAN-compliant remote radio head (RRH) pricing and functionality’, attracting votes from 35% of respondents this year, down slightly from 37% last year. 

At the bottom of the pile for the second year running is, surprisingly, a focus on developing an ‘Expanded developer ecosystem for xApps & rApps’ that can run on RIC platforms – this year it attracted votes from 32% of respondents, though that is at least a significant increase from last year’s 20%. 

So, a lot of important developments for the Open RAN community to address, but it looks like the development of TCO models that can support a network operator’s business case for Open RAN solution deployments is the topic that, above all else, still needs the greatest level of attention over the coming 12 months.     

Want to catch up with what senior executives from the likes of Vodafone Group, BT, the O-RAN Alliance, TIP, Ericsson, Juniper Networks, Rakuten Symphony, Red Hat and Wind River are saying about key Open RAN developments? You can watch all of this year’s Open RAN Summit sessions, including our live Q&As, on demand on the TelecomTV website.   

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV