ONF’s New SD-RAN Project Boosts Open RAN

 Activity surrounding Open RAN is hitting a fever pitch.  We have been seeing accelerating operator and vendor announcements supporting Open RAN, and now the Open Networking Foundation has announced that it is launching SD-RAN to complement Open RAN.  The plan for SD RAN is to open up critical portions of the RAN architecture, allowing both open source and vendor based microservices, called xApps, software connect to the SD RAN architecture’s Radio Ixxx Controller (RIC).

To date, we’ve seen vendors like Parallel Wireless, Mavenir, Altiostar, Samsung and Nokia throw their weight behind Open RAN.  Japanese operator Rakuten has been very vocal about its successful commercial launch in April 2020 that uses Open RAN and a virtual computing system to support various RAN functions such as baseband.  ONF’s SD RAN project takes things another step, though, by allowing operators and vendors to to leverage open source in the RAN environment.

Getting there presents a challenge.  With its announcement, the ONF will support a nRT-RIC and xApps, this is the intelligence that needs to be opened up, according to Timon Sloane, VP for ecosystems and marketing for the ONF based in Menlo Park. He says that functionality from a powerful RIC and xApps can finally deliver the integration and benefits needed for an open approach to work.

Adding some muscle, the open RAN development community, and associated carriers globally, have shown their support for this latest project, a software defined RAN that will put a focus on open systems for 5G and the deeper integration.

The ONF’s SD-RAN project specifically is backed by a coterie of industry players: The O-RAN Alliance, Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP), and Facebook. Also, global carriers and cloud providers like AT&T, Google, China Mobile, China Unicom, DT and NTT. Lastly, system/chip companies like Intel, Sercomm and Radisys.

The ONF’s proposed µONOS-RIC, is a microservices SDN controller based on ONF’s ONOS platform.  650 Group is bullish on this effort as previous attempts have not come to fruition and the ONF has already had lots of success with its CORD/cloud edge data centers and broadband access with the likes of AT&T DT and Comcast.