Image courtesy of Parallel Wireless.
The mobile industry is currently discussing Virtualized RAN (vRAN) and Open RAN, but it is vital to distinguish between these two concepts because they represent different approaches:
1. vRAN or Virtual RAN
With vRAN, the proprietary radio hardware remains as it is, but the BBU gets replaced by a COTS server rather than being proprietary BBU hardware. The software that runs on the BBU is virtualized to run on any COTS server. But the proprietary interfaces between radios and COTS-based BBU remain as they are.
So, though RAN functions are virtualized on a COTS server, the interface between the BBU and RRU / RRH is not an open interface, so any vendor’s software cannot work with the RRU / RRH unless the interfaces become open
The key with Open RAN is that the interface between the BBU and RRU / RRH is an open interface, so, any vendor’s software can work on any open RRU / RRH. More open interfaces enable the use of one supplier’s radios with another’s processors – which is not possible with vRAN. Open RAN is a movement to define and build 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G RAN solutions based on a general-purpose, vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology with open interfaces between all the components.
Open RAN Is the disaggregation of hardware and software: the RRU / RRH hardware becomes a GPP-based or COTS hardware that can be purchased from any ODM, OEM or RAN hardware vendor . The BBU is the same as in the case of vRAN
There are vital differences between vRAN and Open RAN, the most important of which is the innovation that Open RAN will introduce in the telco value chain.vRAN will also introduce new features and enhance the efficiency of network rollouts, but Open RAN fundamentally alters the mobile infrastructure value chain in a way that mirrors the diversity of suppliers and speed of innovation that redefined the PC market several years ago.