vRAN vs. Open RAN

The goal of vRAN and Open RAN is disaggregation of radio access network hardware and software, to help operators improve flexibility, reduce costs and meet growing demand.

A Virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) is one result of the effort to virtualize network functions. A vRAN lets the operator run the baseband functions of their RAN as software. With vRANs, carriers can migrate from custom-built Baseband Units (BBUs) to standard software servers running on Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) server hardware. Remote Radio Units (RRUs) network with Virtualized Baseband Units (vBBUs) in the cloud.
Virtualizing the RAN increases flexibility in hardware, software and systems integration, and adopts the same agile principles that drive innovation in cloud services. Operators can make changes like security enhancements through software alone, adopting agile cloud deployment principles to constantly improve and iterate.

Open RAN
A vRAN replaces BBUs with Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) hardware, but the RAN is still dependent on proprietary interfaces and purpose-built hardware for radio transmissions. Open RAN is an effort to open the RAN altogether.
“Current RAN technology is provided as a hardware and software integrated platform. The ambition for Open RAN is to create a multi-supplier RAN solution that allows for the separation — or disaggregation — between hardware and software with open interfaces and virtualisation, hosting software that controls and updates networks in the cloud. The promised benefits include supply chain diversity, solution flexibility and new capabilities leading to increased competition and further innovation,” said Ericsson.
Open RAN seeks to disaggregate RAN hardware and software on vendor-neutral platforms, and opens the interface protocols between the Radio Unit (RU), the Distributed Unit (DU) and the Centralized Unit (CU) functions in the RAN. Operators can pick from different virtualized or split RAN architectures depending on service requirements, resources, capacity, and other factors.

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