22 Mar 2021

Open and disaggregated RAN, a platform for innovation

Today open, disaggregated, virtualised networks account for just a tiny percentage of the RAN industry. That’s going to change. 

Industry forecasters predict that Open RAN technologies will make up more than 10% of the overall radio access network industry by the mid-2020s. Analysts Dell'Oro agree. They predict cumulative Open RAN investments to get close to $10 billion by 2025. 

So, Open RAN will be a key approach in modern mobile networks. For it to succeed, industry players – from ultra-heavyweight to start-up – and governments must work together.  

November’s UK government 5G diversification strategy announcement and January’s memorandum of understanding between major European operators were an encouraging start. Now we must amplify that effort. We need to make sure Open RAN specifications and standards are developed and widely deployed so there’s a consistent European approach. 

Realising 5G’s full potential 

This should all be unequivocally positive for the whole European telecommunications industry – broadening vendors’ portfolio strategies, allowing in new companies and start-ups, diversifying the supplier ecosystem and enabling a truer multi-vendor environment. 

Open RAN will help realise 5G’s full potential. It facilitates more competition and innovation and will support mobile operators deploying the new generation of high performance, secure, open and virtualised networks. Infrastructure equipment manufacturers benefit too – transforming public and private wireless networks into platforms for innovation. 

More openness, better flexibility, faster innovation

A more open, disaggregated strategy for radio access networks has the potential to make 5G networks more flexible, and cost efficient. It could also make them a better platform for innovation.  

Separating software from processing hardware through virtualization will make it easier to introduce new features and give service providers more commercial flexibility.  

At one end of the scale, it will help enable new types of private networks in places like factory campuses. At the other, it can help deliver more diversity in public networks. And operators could initiate system-wide updates or target a handful of local sites. That makes network management simpler and cuts operational and maintenance costs. 

Not just technology and standards 

But Open RAN is more than just a debate about technology adoption and common standards.

A widely adopted open platform could also lower barriers for cross-domain innovation, freeing up minds to develop new use cases and services.  

More companies competing encourages more diverse thinking, better quality products and services and more resilience and security. And it allows operators to get into various 5G industry verticals – from smart manufacturing to mobility and enterprises. 

Playing our part 

Last October, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. announced a full portfolio of 5G infrastructure semiconductor platforms. We designed them to be deployed in a broad range of scenarios – to speed up the transition to open, virtualised and interoperable radio access networks. 

We think our technology provides a comprehensive horizontal Open RAN foundation; a platform to deploy innovative, high-performance, virtualised and disaggregated 5G networks at scale. Removing the technology and industry barriers will speed up the shift to a new generation of more diverse, interoperable, and secure infrastructure.  

But it means mobile operators, governments, network equipment vendors, standards bodies and other stakeholders working together. We are ready to play our part.


Wassim Chourbaji is Qualcomm’s Senior Vice President and Head of Government Affairs for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He oversees Qualcomm’s public policy, regulatory strategy and senior government relations across the region. Mr Chourbaji leads a senior team responsible for technology, intellectual property, digital economy, spectrum, standardization, data, security and competition policies, with an emphasis on 5G and AI. He has been appointed member of the UK’s Ofcom Spectrum Advisory Board and was also the Chairman of techUK Communications Infrastructure Council. Mr Chourbaji studied engineering and mathematics in France. 


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