Analysis

Automation of the RAN: an operator’s roadmap to vRAN and open RAN

9th November 2022
Sheryl Miles

In Rethink Technologies latest report entitled: ‘Automation of the RAN: An Operators Roadmap to vRAN and Open RAN’, Rethinks wireless research team led by Co-Founder and Research Director Caroline Gabriel, surveyed a global panel of MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) to discuss their network adoption plans, technologies and economics in relation to RAN automation, including vRAN and Open RAN.

Rethink conducted extensive stakeholder interviews of operators, vendors, infrastructure service providers and cloud companies and used this information together with 15 years of refined data from operator surveys as a foundation for this report.

Two years ago, Rethink spoke to a global panel of MNOs about their plans for automation of the RAN. Since then, some things have not gone to plan and MNOs are now more cautious and conservative in their strategies and timescales, reflecting a more realistic and business focused approach.

MNOs are looking at automation, not just as a necessary step for vRAN, but as a way of reducing OPEX, especially those with a large NOC. Some MNOs aim to reduce NOC operating cost by a factor of up to 20%, and some have already taken these steps.

But automation of the RAN delivers more than just reduced OPEX, it also allows MNOs to deploy an agile and responsive cloud-based network that will allow introduction of new services, whilst adapting to changes in traffic and customer demand

The report and forecast dives into operator strategies, and discusses key drivers, and barriers to automating the RAN, and predicts the intensity with which MNOs will reduce OPEX in the next two years, as recession looms and inflation rises.

The report investigates the many challenges, both organisational, and cultural, that MNOs face to make the decisions needed. Which new RAN architectures will be deployed and when, and the RIC use cases. The report puts you in the room with the operators to understand their strategies.

Fifty-eight percent of MNOS see automation of the RAN as a way of reducing operating and power costs, with additional benefits being improved SLAs, and agility in responsiveness to user requirements; yet clarity of the ROI is still needed for some of those surveyed.

By 2026 21% of MNOs expect a high percentage of the RAN to be automated, and 10% say their RANS will be fully automated.

“Rethink forecasts that MNOs will spend $32bn from 2022 to 2026, and of that $7bn will go on RAN automation. Of that forecast amount $3bn will be spent on components related to vRAN or Open RAN, showing that most MNOs’ RAN automation strategies will be closely linked with vRAN and/or Open RAN.”

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