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Enterprise O-RAN | A Simple Explanation

Wondering about Enterprise ORAN? We explain ORAN specs, how they relate to private 5G, and how enterprises can take advantage.

What Is Enterprise ORAN?

Open Radio Access Networks (ORANs) are based on a principle of interoperability and standardization of Radio Access Network (RAN) elements so that hardware and software components can be vendor-neutral. 5G makes ORAN accessible for large-scale private networks and enterprises; however, this technology is still in the early stages.

You may see different terminology when learning about ORANs. “ORAN” describes the overall movement towards a software- and hardware-agnostic radio network architecture. You may also see this abbreviated as “Open RAN.”

“O-RAN” (containing the hyphen) refers to the O-RAN Alliance. The alliance is in charge of publishing new specifications, testing new integrations, and promoting ORAN technology.

What Is a RAN?

A RAN, or Radio Access Network, is a series of radios that connect your device’s cellular signal to the network infrastructure. An enterprise network backbone for a private cellular network and a high speed fiber backhaul for public cellular networks support these radio to allow for wireless data transmission in private enterprise environments and for public commercial mobile services.

A growing challenge among network operators has been simplifying RAN access across multiple vendors. With radio networks spanning countries, different regulatory requirements, enterprise use cases … inconsistencies in hardware and software create an unneeded layer of complexity and reduce the efficiency of radio communications.

An Open-Source Solution

ORAN provides an open-source framework that allows RAN communication across multiple vendors, regardless of what hardware or software they use. This simplification will improve transmission efficiency and wide-scale cellular communication. Enterprise ORAN helps reduce infrastructure costs for mobile networks and allow small vendors to build their own services and radio networks more efficiently. RANs can come in different types of configurations depending on their hardware and how they communicate. Below are a few common types of RAN architectures.

  • C-RAN, or Cloud-based/Centralized RAN, achieves interoperability by leveraging advancements in wireless technology and IT network infrastructure. Rather than using a smaller cluster of cellular base stations, C-RAN uses Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing to broadcast over vast distances to a single centralized tower. This allows for connectivity across multiple vendor devices over large geographic areas.
  • vRAN, or Virtual RAN, works by separating the hardware from the software to allow network operators to completely virtualize the baseband units (BBUs) and have it run on any generic hardware platform as software.
  • E-UTRAN, or Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access, was first tested in 2008 to provide improved data rates, lower latency, and optimizations for data in packet form.
  • ORAN, or Open RAN, is based on improved interoperability and standardization to allow networks to operate in a way that is hardware agnostic. The O-RAN Alliance works to create standards, support new hardware, and promote the use of ORAN to network operators.

Enterprise ORAN vs. RAN: Why It Matters

RANs use baseband units (BBUs) to transmit data across the network. Traditionally, commercial suppliers would sell their BBUs to network operators, like Verizon, to allow their infrastructure to communicate with the RAN. These BBUs would be vendor-specific, meaning that those BBUs could not communicate with hardware other than their own.

With over one hundred thousand cell towers in the United States and dozens of mobile network operators, this vendor-specific approach has increased infrastructure costs and delays deploying new technologies such as 5G.

In an enterprise ORAN, BBUs are virtualized and allow more flexibility in allocating network resources. Operators can use a BBU pool to delegate these resources to other cell towers based on current demand or specific service-level agreement (SLA) requirements.

Standardization across the ORAN will help mobile operators share insights and analytics that wouldn’t be otherwise possible. This transparency ultimately helps everyone communicate by optimizing traffic routes and distributing network resources in real-time.

Enterprise organizations can now also use the ORAN model to predictably scale their mobile services in a much more cost-effective way.

Enterprise ORAN and 5G

ORAN will bridge the divide between vendor-specific infrastructure and determine how enterprises will deploy future technologies. Enterprises can use the ORAN model to deploy and scale 5G services, such as autonomous vehicles, fleet management, and IoT monitoring.

5G over an ORAN architecture allows for granular control of each component in the system. For example, 5G architecture divides the functionality of the BBU into the radio unit, distributed unit, and centralized unit.

In the past, network operators would have to assign resources to BBUs and correct traffic issues manually. ORANs leverage virtualization and AI-powered algorithms to maintain the network at a speed and scale that wouldn’t be possible by human operators.

The Celona Solution

Celona partners with enterprise organizations to provide private LTE and 5G connectivity services for their critical operations as a seamless turnkey solution. As part of Celona’s solution set, the enterprise ORAN model has been utilized to improve services and reduce cost of private cellular infrastructure adoption.

Plug-and-play CBRS access points from Celona can be quickly deployed throughout the campus, while proactive monitoring with a cloud-hosted dashboard ensures network SLAs, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently being met.

Celona uses cloud networking principles to make implementing its 5G LAN solution an out-of-box experience for access point installation, SIM provisioning, mobile core integration to existing enterprise networks and more. Onboarding for a Celona 5G LAN can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

If you’re building your network for the future, Celona can help. Check out our network planner to estimate the size of your private mobile network, or test-drive the Celona 5G LAN solution after applying for a free trial.

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