The Open Networking Foundation, AirHop, Facebook and Telecom Infra Project Demonstrate First O-RAN Aligned, xApp-Powered Open RAN Solution

MENLO PARK, Calif. - The Open Networking Foundation (ONF), AirHop, Facebook and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) today announced the first multi-vendor, radio access network (RAN) automation demonstration, consistent with the O-RAN architecture, to provide operators with supplier flexibility for network optimization. As part of the ONF’s SD-RAN project, the joint collaboration supports a broad range of automation services in the form of software services, called xApps by O-RAN, that run on the RAN intelligent controller (RIC).

With today’s announcement, ONF, AirHop, Facebook, TIP, and the broader SD-RAN community have integrated the SD-RAN RIC from ONF with an xApp from AirHop to demonstrate RAN automation. Furthermore, Facebook contributed the software development kit (SDK) and xApp software aligned with a TIP - RAN Intelligence Automation (RIA) sub-group-prioritized use case to connect the AirHop application to the SD-RAN RIC.

SD-RAN is based on the ONF's well-known ONOS architecture. In SD-RAN, the microservice-based software architecture, known as Micro-ONOS, is a completely re-imagined, modern, cloud-native implementation of the O-RAN near real-time RIC and includes O-RAN-defined interfaces such as E2, O1, and A1. 

The SDK from Facebook makes it easy to develop xApps by exposing simplified APIs that adhere to O-RAN specifications. AirHop, Facebook, and ONF are working together with other partners and O-RAN to standardize the APIs between xApps and RIC platforms. With standard APIs, xApps and RIC platforms will be interoperable, promoting an expanded ecosystem of xApps and driving innovation.

AirHop leveraged the xApp-SDK to demonstrate Self Organizing Networking (SON) capabilities, implementing Physical Cell Identifier (PCI) collision and confusion detection and resolution as an xApp. The AirHop xApp maintains visibility of the entire RAN network state. Upon detection of any PCI conflicts, it sends all necessary control commands over the E2 interface to resolve any issues at impacted cell sites. View a video demonstration.

TIP-RIA is a sub-group within the TIP OpenRAN project group that is focused on prioritizing AI/ML based use cases through an ecosystem of leading operators and vendors, including ONF and AirHop. TIP-RIA enables xApp vendors such as AirHop to define, build, integrate, test and deploy intelligent solutions that extend the programmability of Open RAN systems through platforms like the ONF RIC.

AirHop, Facebook and ONF selected PCI conflict resolution as an initial xApp to test and verify an open xApp integration process. This successful integration shows how other more advanced use cases and AI/ML techniques can be implemented as xApps that run on the micro-ONOS RIC. It is a first step towards the promise of software-defined Open RAN where xApps, RICs, and RAN offerings from multiple vendors can interoperate - forming a broad ecosystem of innovative solutions. In collaboration with the broader SD-RAN community, AirHop, Facebook and ONF will continue to work on implementing more advanced scenarios.

“AirHop Communications, a leading network intelligence software company, is leveraging open RAN and the xApp architecture to make our commercially proven near-real-time RAN optimization capabilities easily adopted by more mobile operators,” said Joe Thome, VP Business Operations and Marketing, AirHop. “Support from Facebook and ONF, and the xApp-SDK component of the SD-RAN project, made integration of our eSON product features as an xApp with the µONOS-RIC platform straightforward. We will continue to make available additional eSON capabilities as xApps, and we plan to take these xApps to market commercially.”

“We believe unlocking innovation in RAN through disaggregation can lower costs and expand ubiquitous internet connectivity,” said Vish Ponnampalam, Engineering Lead for Facebook. “We are excited to continue working with ONF’s SD-RAN project to help accelerate solutions that will make it easier for operators to automate and optimize their networks.”

“We are pleased to have so rapidly demonstrated a true multi-vendor implementation where advanced SON functionality has been moved up into an xApp. This is just the beginning for vertically disaggregated RAN, and we will be demonstrating additional SON and RRM functions as xApps shortly,” said Saurav Das, VP Engineering, ONF.

“TIP launched the RAN Intelligence and Automation sub-group in July 2020 with a view of creating an ecosystem of operators and vendors to promote further innovations to Open RAN optimization by bringing AI/ML based applications to RIC platforms,” said David Hutton, Chief Engineer for TIP. “We are pleased to collaborate with ONF, AirHop and Facebook to deliver a use case prioritized by TIP RIA."

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