Disaggregation meets AI: A new customer-centric network

The Telecom Infra Project and O-RAN Alliance have announced their collaboration to accelerate the path to disaggregated and interoperable radio area network (RAN) solutions. Both organisations have a common goal: to create interoperable mobile networks where any vendor’s software in the cloud can interoperate with another vendor’s hardware.
The O-RAN Alliance’s mission is to re-shape the industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualised and fully interoperable mobile networks. They say it will create a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem. In their recent whitepaper they focus on the use of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to control the realtime behaviour of the RAN – a big enabler to a much-needed customer-centric network.
The use cases discussed include:

  • White-box Hardware Design – which is aimed at reducing the costs of 5G deployment by specifying and releasing a complete reference design for low-cost radio access network hardware
  • AI-enabled RAN and Open RAN Interfaces
    • Initially, this is about creating more dynamic and agile responses to changing radio environments. By continuously optimising the way traffic and resources are managed, it delivers a shift towards a more customer-centric network
    • Further down the line, the benefits of the underlying AI/ML system are expected to be: RAN support for network slicing SLA assurance, optimising handover management for vehicle-to-everything (V2X), and new support for low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
  • Virtual RAN Network – open interfaces to allow operators to easily share and provide mechanisms for host operators to configure and control virtual RAN functions.

The software architecture behind O-RAN is fully virtualised and designed to work in cloud native deployment scenarios.
According to Attilo Zanio, Executive Director of TIP, this intersects nicely with TIP’s mission of deploying end-to-end disaggregated telecoms infrastructure in varying environments. Under the new agreement, O-Ran will focus on the specifications and TIP will adopt and implement them together with vendors.
TIP have also announced the new Open Core Network group in which a cloud native converged core will be developed to run on standardised software and hardware infrastructure. It will support 4G, 5G and Wi-Fi access in licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum, as well as private networks.
This is all geared towards an optimum user experience, with support for seamless transitions between 4G, 5G and Wi-Fi. The TIP Wi-Fi project group is also focussed on disaggregation of the AP from the cloud controller to create a healthy ecosystem of vendors with interoperable hardware and software based on open sourced designs.
The trend is clear: interoperable and disaggregated solutions for intelligent 4G/5G RAN, Wi-Fi APs, cloud native core network and a Wi-Fi cloud controller all point towards a more customer-centric network. One where the access and the network are continuously optimised to deliver the customer with the best possible experience at all times.
Omnisperience’s view
Omnisperience thinks that although these alliances are mostly run by telecoms operators and vendors today, the benefits for enterprises and venues will be significant in the future. As it becomes easier to deploy intelligent, real-time-optimising private and public networks using both Wi-Fi and cellular access, enterprises of all types will be able to deploy a network more suited to their needs.