Written by Catherine Sbeglia Nin
Whether improving the power efficiency of mobile networks is truly the “highest priority” for operators, as Saqlain Ali, senior analyst at ABI Research, claimed at Open RAN Forum, it can’t be denied that that power reduction practices are top of mind across the telecom industry. Furthermore, the radio access network (RAN) has become a particular target for energy reduction because it’s considered the most “power hungry component,” consuming as much as 80 to 90% of the total power in a mobile network. Therefore, Ali stated, the trend towards virtualized, as well as more open and disaggregated, RAN must be considered when discussing telco network sustainability.
“In traditional networks, the radio units and baseband units are integrated together,” explained Ali, adding that this “restricts openness” and leaves “no room for innovation.” Virtualized radio access networks, he continued, may lead to more innovation because the baseband unit is virtualized, but it is Open RAN that provides a virtualized and segregated environment for the baseband units and for the radio units. “It has room for innovation and… open interfaces to bring intelligence into the network, and since they are virtualized, there is room for energy efficiency,” he said.
Thanks to the introduction of the RAN intelligent controller (RIC) and xApps and rApps, he continued, the energy efficiency of the RAN can be greatly improved. The RIC is a central software component of the Open RAN architecture, and by supporting network automation — whether the development of energy saving features or automatically detecting anomalies — it provides a higher degree of energy optimization. “The introduction of RIC… can provide policy-based guidance to optimize the control and control the RAN elements such as O-CU [O-RAN Centralized Unit], O-DU [O-RAN Distributed Unit] and O-RU [O-RAN Distributed Unit],” Ali stated.