Telco Cloud: Open RAN is a work in progress
This report accompanies the latest release and quarterly update of STL Partners ‘Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker’ database. This contains data on deployments of VNFs (Virtual Network Functions), CNFs (cloud-native network functions) and SDN (Software Defined Networking) in the networks of the leading telcos worldwide. In this update we have added some additional categories to the database to reflect the different types of virtualised / open RAN:
- Open RAN / O-RAN: Fully open, disaggregated, virtualised / cloud-native, with CU / DU split
- vRAN: Virtualised CU/DU, with open interfaces but implemented as an integrated, single-vendor platform
- Cloud RAN: Single-vendor, virtualised / centralised BU, or CU only, with proprietary / closed interfaces
Cloud RAN is the most limited form of virtualised RAN: It is based on porting part or all of the functionality of the legacy, appliance-based BU into a Virtual Machine. vRAN and open RAN are much more significant, in both technology and business-model terms, breaking open all parts of the RAN to more competition and opportunities for innovation.
Accordingly, the report presents data on only open RAN and vRAN deployments however a granular analysis of each category of RAN deployment can be carried out using the Telco Cloud Tracker tool.
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Open RAN and vRAN deployments, 2018 – 2022
Open RAN and vRAN
To date, there have been significantly more open RAN than vRAN deployments. But vRAN is emerging as a potentially competitive alternative to pure open RAN: offering the same operational benefits and – in theory – multi-vendor openness, but without the overhead of integrating components from multiple vendors, and a ‘single neck to choke’ if things go wrong. Deployments in 2020 were mostly small-scale and / or 4G, including trials which continued to carry live traffic after the trial period came to an end.
The stark contrast between 2021 and 2022 reflects a slight hiatus in commercial deployments as work intensified around integration and operational models, trials, performance optimisation, and cost economics. However, major deployments are expected in 2022, including greenfield networks 1&1 Drillisch (Germany) and DISH (US), Verizon, Vodafone UK, and MTN (Africa and ME).
Scope and content of the Tracker
The data in the latest update of our interactive tool and database covers the period up to March 2022, although reference is made in the report to events and deployments after that date. The data is drawn predominantly from public-domain information contained in news releases from operators and vendors, along with reputable industry media.
We apply the term ‘deployment’ to refer to the total set of VNFs, CNFs or SDN technology, and their associated management software and infrastructure, deployed at an operator – or at one or more of an operator’s opcos or natcos – in order to achieve a defined objective or support particular services (in the spreadsheet, we designate these as the ‘primary purpose’ of the deployment). For example, this could be:
- to deploy a 5G standalone core
- to launch a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) service
- or to construct a ‘telco cloud’ or NFV infrastructure (NFVi): a cloud infrastructure platform on which virtualised network services can be introduced and operated.
The Tracker is provided as an interactive tool containing line-by-line analysis of over 900 individual deployments of VNFs, CNFs or SDN technology, which can be used to drill down by:
- Region where deployed
- Technology vendor
- Primary purpose
- Type of telco cloud function deployed
- …and more filters
Telco Cloud Trial Deployment Tracker
Take a look at the trial of our interactive tool with live, commercial deployments of VNFs, CNFs and SDN technologies worldwide
Previous telco cloud tracker releases
Each new release of the tracker is global, but is accompanied by an analytical report which focusses on trends in given regions from time to time:
- Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker: 5G standalone and RAN – November 2021
- 2020 in review and focus on North America: How should telcos do cloud? – April 2021
- Telco Cloud Europe update: Open RAN approaching tipping point – October 2020
- NFV goes mainstream: How cloud-native is contributing to growth – June 2020
- Deployment Tracker: Asia-Pacific points to the future of NFV – November 2019
- Deployment Tracker: North American data and trends – June 2019
- Deployment Tracker: Europe 2018 update – November 2018
- Deployment Tracker: Global review and update – August 2018
- Deployment Tracker: Asia takes the lead – April 2018
- Deployment Tracker: North America – SD-WAN tail wags NFV dog – January 2018
- Deployment Tracker: Europe – September 2017