Why Transition from 4G to 5G+ vRAN/O-RAN?

Given the evolution of technology, the transition from 4G and other legacy-generation networks to advanced 5G+ networks has become inevitable. This shift not only promises faster and more reliable connectivity but also opens a spectrum of opportunities for businesses across industries. ResearchAndMarkets.com is predicting a 55.1% CAGR in the global 5G market during 2024–2030 due to the proliferation of high-speed data traffic combined with M2M communications. But this growth opportunity will vary, depending on how service providers choose to roll out their 5G networks.

Virtual and Open RAN, which come with broader choices of technology options and greater flexibility, are poised to give service providers greater opportunity as they transition their networks. There are five reasons for this:

1. vRAN and O-RAN will liberate 5G+ technology.

To understand the transitional path and its importance, we must understand the fundamental layers of vRAN and O-RAN technologies:

• The bottom layer consists of the COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware, provided by vendors such as Intel, Dell, HPE, and so on. They provide server platforms with accelerators and basic hardware such as CPU, motherboards, and more.

• The middle layer is the CaaS (containers as a service) infrastructure layer, which is supplied by Wind River® Studio Operator. This layer offers an operating system based on open source StarlingX and provides the ability to automate and scale any application with Kubernetes and KubeVirt for virtualization on bare metal.

• The top layer is the application layer. In the telco world, this comes from application providers such as Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, and others.

By disaggregating the RAN, service providers can pick and choose how they wish to source each element. They have the flexibility to change and adjust as their network evolves.

 

It’s also important to note that vRAN and O-RAN have moved well beyond trials and are being used in live Tier 1 networks. New deployments are being added with increasing frequency.

One of the latest examples is TELUS, a Canadian CSP. TELUS is using Wind River Studio for its cloud infrastructure to build Canada’s first commercial virtualized and Open RAN network. We are in the process of transitioning a large percentage of TELUS’s 4G network to O-RAN. This effort becomes one of the first truly virtualized O-RAN deployments within a complex, existing (brownfield) and new (greenfield) network environment in North America.

2. Traditional RAN will impede progress.

Telco carriers may still consider the old way of doing things: buying the entire solution, consisting of purpose-built appliances with telco applications. In this situation, they will be locked in with a single vendor that will provide all aspects of 5G technology, including new applications, without the ability to quickly swap infrastructure.

With our CaaS infrastructure, Wind River provides integration and continuous validation with the leading RAN hardware and software providers. We work with the key ecosystem members and can provide the network infrastructure that service providers need for their networks today, as well as be a partner to help evolve their networks in the future.

This brings us to the next question: How will service providers on legacy equipment support the 6G technology that is just around the corner?

3. 6G will be virtualized.

There will be practically no 6G that will be done the old way. It is expected that 6G will continue and expand the trend of virtualization. This fact should have the attention of CSP decision-makers. Why invest in outdated technology if 6G standards will push to a new virtualized, disaggregated infrastructure combined with microservices that will open doors to AI/ML enhancements?

4. There will be healthy competition among vendors with 6G.

As CSPs launch their RFPs, all the major equipment providers in the world will participate in the bidding game. CSPs will pick the best offers, satisfying their application and price requirements. The disaggregated infrastructure provided by vRAN/O-RAN will enable telco carriers to accelerate innovation and healthy competition among vendors in apps, CaaS, and hardware.

5. It’s about applications, not just technology.

It becomes evident that what runs on the network matters more than the network itself. Regardless of the industry, the focus shifts to the application layer. Whether it’s telco RAN, cloud robotics in an industrial setting, or remote medical services supporting hospitals, the application’s functionality takes center stage.

But this can only happen if the infrastructure is solid to begin with. CSPs will be able to monetize the new services and support growth. Infrastructure providers such as Wind River will play a critical role in enabling application-specific capabilities. By offering a stable foundation, they empower partners to develop and run diverse applications, driving innovation and growth.

Conclusion

The transition from legacy 4G to 5G and beyond not only unlocks new opportunities but also challenges organizations to think beyond the status quo. By embracing the power of over-the-air updates, edge cloud technology, and application-focused strategies, businesses can pave the way for a future that is more connected, innovative, and revenue driven.

The journey from legacy to 5G does not need to be daunting. It’s a transformative process that, if approached strategically, can position your organization as a front-runner in the digital age. 

These are only some reasons for why the largest global carriers deploy with Wind River: The first and only proven solution, the only scalable and distributed cloud for true carrier scale, the only field-proven, partner-integrated architecture, the highest vRAN/O-RAN reliability, industry-leading low latency and throughput.

Learn more about how Wind River can help you transition by contacting us at www.windriver.com/contact.

Emily Goldshteyn

Senior Product Marketing Line Manager at Wind River

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