By Adrian O’Connor, CEO at Benetel
When Henry Ford launched the Model-T, it became famous for being ‘offered in any colour, as long as it is black’. This lack of choice obviously did not hinder sales, probably because there were so few cars on the road to compare the offer with. Today, the sheer range of vehicle choice is phenomenal. In comparison, the range of infrastructure choice for the mobile telecommunications industry is probably the worst the industry has seen.
The 21st century seems to be being defined by unlimited choice, from media and consumer goods, to cloud and services. Admittedly, not all of this results in ground-breaking progress or change, but it does provide the potential energy needed to make such things happen. Unfortunately, this level of agility is not afforded to our industry, with our future infrastructure in the hands of a small number of suppliers.
OpenRAN project: laying the groundwork for innovation
As mobile telecoms has developed, and the number of subscribers has grown, it is clear that the physical infrastructure equipment to meet the demands of user needs must be more agile and flexible, allowing us to roll out new services and capabilities at speed. We also need to test new concepts and approaches, quickly learning what theory translates optimally into practice, and what doesn’t. This is why the growing momentum of the OpenRAN project is so exciting and our pick of what to watch in the decade ahead.
OpenRAN fulfils the need of telecoms operators by defining open and standardised interfaces at key points in the path between the antenna and backhaul. As a result, instead of having to provide a monolithic RAN solution, suppliers can work to their strengths and innovate in selected segments of the complete system. Both supplier and operator are then safe in the knowledge that this solution will be compatible with other elements in the system.
Not only does this bring agility and new ideas into this core infrastructure, it also enables virtualisation, something that the hardware from cloud service providers have used to their advantage for over a decade. As a result, the virtual RAN (vRAN) ecosystem is strengthening all the time with key telecoms players reviewing the results of their pilot schemes and factoring this into their plans for the next hardware roll-out.
5G: The potential of a new generation
The introduction of 5G is also providing new operating paradigms, with Germany and the UK leading the way in Europe by licensing spectrum for private networks. This provides, for example, factories with access to the capabilities of 5G, while maintaining control of how much and what data is shared outside of their corporate networks. In turn, this expands this market in terms of customers, while generating demand that can be fulfilled by smaller players.
While mmWave has been very much in the news for early deployments, the very wide bandwidths and shorter transmission distances of mmWave are currently best suited to dense urban deployments – i.e. in very large cities where lack of 4G spectrum hurts today. 5G solutions will be more broadly rolled out in the sub-6GHz bands.
What the future holds for Benetel
For Benetel, we can look forward to the next step for our vRAN Remote Radio Unit (RU) product family: the official release of our OpenRAN based product early in 2020, followed by rolling releases of additional versions, both indoor and outdoor 5G products throughout the year. Implementing the 7.2 architecture split, this modular solution epitomises the OpenRAN ethos, being future proof, multi-radio capable, and highly scalable.
Benetel continues to ship performance optimized LTE hardware platform serving small and medium grade base station requirements. Based on a T3K Compact Baseband Module, the platform is complimented with a wide variety of low to high power RF modules designed to meet and exceed 3GPP medium power base station requirements making them ideal for addressing the various private LTE network applications.
While consumers struggle to see 5G as any more than 4G with benefits, and are already factoring in new handset purchases, the industries that make mobile communications happen are sensing a new lease of life, opportunity, and potential. The Disaggregated RAN opens up an industry to smaller, more agile specialist players. At Benetel, our feeling is that we are entering one of the most exciting phases our industry has ever seen, and we look forward to experiencing what will be a thrilling, but demanding, year of telecoms innovation.