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Open RAN innovation: the key to future end-to-end service management & orchestration

The Open RAN service management and orchestration (SMO) layer will ensure network-wide service optimization down to individual users extending end-to-end network and service orchestration deep into the RAN.

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Mehrdad Ekbatani, Product Marketing Manager, E2E Network and Service Automation

Amdocs Technology

31 May 2022

Open RAN innovation: the key to future end-to-end service management & orchestration

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With Open RAN SMO, as part of end-to-end service and network orchestration, huge potential exists to launch new innovative and profitable services, supporting the industry as it moves through its early phases of exploration and the promise of fascinating real-life scenarios.

Open RAN innovation: the key to future end-to-end service management & orchestration

As mobile networks evolve from 4G to 5G and service providers begin to deploy 5G standalone (5G SA) networks, technologies such as Open RAN, combined with end-to-end service management and orchestration platforms are all gearing up to play a major role in their evolution. Together, these technologies will create enormous opportunities to launch new innovative and profitable services.

Indeed, with the industry currently in the early phases of exploration, many fascinating real-life scenarios lie just round the corner. As an example, consider the following Open RAN use case of gathering evidence at a crime scene:

When law enforcement officers are called to deal with an incident at a potential crime scene, Open RAN and 5G SA are called upon to play a key role in providing enriched and enhanced connectivity, with seamless exchanges of data with the central control unit.

This includes:

  • Ability to pinpoint the location of officers in relation to the potential crime scene
  • Enhanced and prioritized video and audio connection between officers on site and central control
  • Enhanced wider tactical view through drone video coverage.
  • Links with local CCTV
Gathering evidence at a crime scene

Gathering evidence at a crime scene

Let’s understand how this works:

Officers arrive on the scene wearing body cams and connected via audio link to the central unit. Their locations are identified and their proximity to the potential crime scene is noted.

To ensure maximum quality, the video and audio stream are identified as high priority across the network, while Open RAN enables prioritization of radio resources down to the contextual situation of each individual officer on site – a level of service assurance currently only possible for groups of users. Open RAN also enables collection of local coverage data, identification of enhanced indoor coverage, and steering the data stream accordingly (e.g. to the indoor mmWave band).

As drones are deployed in the locality, intelligence within Open RAN enables their automatic inclusion into the tactical view of the evolving crime scene. Meanwhile, high-definition video streams from the drones, combined with local CCTV coverage are fed to the central control. Data analysis of these feeds is crucial to providing an enriched tactical view of the surrounding area, enabling risk analysis and ultimately, identification of known criminals in real time.

There is no doubt that pressure from new business drivers, requirements and use cases such as the one above, will continue to increase. From the outset, 5G was designed to leverage new innovative technologies as they evolve to meet these challenges.

Let’s now delve deeper to understand what’s happening “under the hood”.

Optimization at the speed of light

In a network, millions of decisions are made every second on how to best serve a user. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) power adaptive policies to ensure the right resources are made available to provide an optimal and profitable service. Such resources are spread across a multitude of network domains such as the radio access network, transport, core network and cloud network.

When a service is delivered, it traverses many different network functions and domains. It’s much like an orchestra where although every musician is an expert with their instrument, the onus is upon the conductor to orchestrate the piece and bring the whole thing together. So too, before a service reaches the user, it is the service management and orchestration layer that automatically brings together and operates the various functions across multiple domains.

As networks become increasingly complex and traditional human-intensive means of deploying, optimizing and operating a network can no longer be used, it is this end-to-end service management and orchestration layer that enables continuous and autonomous optimization so the service can be delivered to the user in real time.

Realistic intelligence evolution

Embedded intelligence, applied at both component and network levels, enables dynamic local radio resource allocation and optimizes network-wide efficiency. But when combined with open interfaces, it also becomes possible to achieve AI-optimized closed-loop automation, thereby enabling a new era for network operations.

Today, many existing network elements remain held back by the “brownfield” scenario, whereby legacy systems remain deployed inefficiently in an isolated, siloed fashion. In the near future however, most service providers will move to overcome this challenge by evolving to a hybrid network architecture. Phased introduction of the latest Open RAN use cases will enable this as the standardization matures, allowing the introduction of specific aspects of Open RAN that are applicable to the desired business outcome.

Furthermore, with disaggregated multiple intelligence layers in the Open RAN, service providers will be able to operate within an open ecosystem with both vendors (traditional and new) and third-party application developers to open up new innovation and business opportunities. This includes the ability to deploy innovative services as RAN applications that can leverage emerging AI/ML-based technologies and open interfaces. Effectively, this will make Open RAN the first RAN “application store.”

Early Open RAN use cases such as traffic steering, quality of experience (QoE) optimization and quality of service (QoS)-based resource optimization will all be able to be used to prioritize radio resources all the way down to the individual user based on external information such as their location. To enable this, it is the Open RAN service management and orchestration (SMO) layer that will ensure network-wide service optimization, thereby extending end-to-end network and service orchestration even further into the RAN.

Let your business strategy decide

Although openness and disaggregation have been very prominent in other parts of the network, a similar shift in the radio access network (RAN) has only just begun. The O-RAN alliance is leading this revolution by creating new standards for cloud scale economies (openness) and agility (intelligence).
Ultimately, the speed and scope of Open RAN adoption is driven by a service provider’s business strategy. And as the underlying technology and standardization continue to mature, there is an increasing flexibility to allow the introduction of specific aspects of Open RAN that are compatible with service providers’ desired business outcomes. With Open RAN SMO, as part of end-to-end service and network orchestration, huge potential exists to launch new innovative and profitable services, supporting the industry as it moves through its early phases of exploration and the promise of fascinating real-life scenarios.
 

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