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Nokia accelerates Open RAN availability with performance, security enhancements

Leading communications technology supplier announces update in open radio access network solutions to support more rapid development of open innovation ecosystem and telecom supply chain

As part of its ongoing strategy to lead a mobile communications technology industry towards an open future, Nokia is enhancing its open solutions portfolio by ramping up the adoption of open radio access network (O-RAN) interfaces in its AirScale portfolio.

The communications technology supplier says the enhancement to the portfolio has the aim of enabling an open ecosystem of innovation and a robust telecom supply chain, while ensuring “world-class” network performance and security.

O-RAN is an open and software-defined network technology that its proponents believe has the potential to enable operators to broaden their number of network infrastructure partners and facilitate a better and more cost-effective 5G network service for customers.

By disaggregating hardware and software components and leveraging open interfaces, O-RAN technology, says the alliance, has the potential to enrich the mobile ecosystem with new solutions and business models, and an expanded multi-supplier ecosystem.

Such capability is seen as particularly useful for coverage in hard-to-reach rural locations, such as an area with a very small population, or where a sharing model is more cost-effective, such as dense urban locations where large numbers of small cells are required. Also, cost-optimised O-RAN technology is said to allow greater capacity and simpler configuration, which could benefit users.

At the beginning of June 2020, mobile operators’ trade association the GSMA announced it would work with the O-RAN Alliance, a consortium of technology vendors driving the acceleration of the standard and compatible products and systems, announced that they would work to harmonise the open networking ecosystem and agree on an industry roadmap for network solutions, with the aims of making access networks as open and flexible as possible for new 5G market entrants.

Nokia regards itself as the only global RAN provider to commit to O-RAN, and that its accelerated investment in and firm commitment to O-RAN provides communications service providers (CSPs) as well as regulators and political decision makers with greater assurance that they can embrace openness to secure their telecom supply chain, without concerns about the competitiveness and/or security of their 5G infrastructure.

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By taking the approach of building the open interfaces on top of its existing solutions, Nokia says it is helping to prepare for the network architecture of the future, regardless of whether CSPs choose to pursue an O-RAN path or not.

Its new O-RAN capabilities, which include open interfaces, will be built on top of existing AirScale software, providing what the company said was the same high-level performance, “expansive” functionalities and “robust” security standards of Nokia’s current radio products. Nokia has already made significant investments in O-RAN by leading the early deployment of the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) and the open fronthaul just recently announced the next generation of it AirScale Cloud RAN portfolio.

“Nokia is committed to leading the open mobile future by investing in Open RAN and Cloud RAN solutions with the aim of enabling a robust telecom ecosystem with strong network performance and security,” said Tommi Uitto, president of mobile networks at Nokia.

“We have the scale and capabilities to address the increased customer demand for this technology, underpinned by the world-class network performance and security that only Nokia can deliver.”

An initial set of Nokia O-RAN functionalities will become available this year, while the full suite of O-RAN-defined interfaces is expected to be available in 2021.

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