Juniper buys in RIC to extend presence in the Open RAN

Juniper buys RIC company, gains guaranteed client, deepens O-RAN portfolio.

Juniper Networks has said it will develop a Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC) as it extends its capability to deploy automated, software-defined network platforms into the radio access network domain.

Juniper has exclusively licensed  Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC) technology from Netsia, a Turkish company ultimately controlled by Turk Telecom. Staff from Netsia will also transfer over to Juniper.  Netsia said that its 4G and 5G RIC is in an “advanced stage of development” after five years R&D and several proof-of-concept trials already completed or underway.

Turk Telecom has agreed to use the resulting Juniper RIC as it deploys Open RAN in its networks. This will include an initial proof-of-concept project slated for late 2021, which will incorporate both the RIC technology and Juniper’s broader portfolio.

The RIC is an O-RAN defined element that comes in near real time and non real time flavours, acting as a control node for O-RAN baseband elements. It can be sited in cloud locations and host AI and other applications (xApps) such as SON and ML workloads from any third party provider. The idea is to give service providers more flexibility in the software they use to optimise and control their radio access networks, so that they are not reliant on the upgrade path of their vRAN software vendor.

Juniper defined the RIC within the context of enabling network slicing across the RAN as part of a programmable and software-defined network.

A blog post from the company said: “We are building a platform to leverage two of our key strengths that will matter most for future networks:

  1. Secure and assured service experience, by using the RIC as a RAN controller (and slice manager) as part of an overall E2E slicing and orchestration overlay
  2. Move to AI-driven service experience, by using the RIC to create an open and extensible platform that allows running of our own or 3rd party applications (xApps/rApps, AI/ML based apps) and drive innovation and differentiation in the RAN”

Companies such as Juniper and its rival Cisco have spotted a role to play within the disaggregated network as ecosystem builders and as orchestrators and core technology providers. The definition of RIC elements within the ecosystem is still fluid.

As well as O-RAN’s working groups for Near and Non real time RICS, the Open Networking Foundation’s (ONF) Software Defined Radio Access Network (SD-RAN) group is defining an open source near-real-time RAN Intelligent Controller (n-RT-RIC) along with a set of xApps for controlling the RAN. This week SON vendor AirHop, a key network optimisation automation provider to Open RAN leader Rakuten, said it is joining the ONF SD-RAN programme for the near real time RIC.

Timon Sloane, Vice President Marketing and Ecosystem, ONF, said, “Open RAN is all about creating the ability to build multivendor solutions in the RAN space, and the SD-RAN community is committed to leveraging the open source µONOS-RIC platform as a unifying element to help build solutions combining RU/CU/DU elements with xApps from a mix of vendors.