Ericsson has released a statement saying that it now “takes leadership in the industrialisation of Open RAN”. The statement said that the company and its partners had now “reached the critical milestones towards defining the next generation open fronthaul interface required to bring performance at scale to Open RAN.”
Like previous messaging, Ericsson said today that its C-RAN portfolio will support O-RAN Alliance’s Open Fronthaul in is Cloud RAN portfolio in 2024. That support is likely to be for the most recent category of OFH specification that Ericsson pushed for in O-RAN and that other vendors have also agreed to, which places Uplink Transceiver processing in the RU, rather than in the DU.
This configuration – known as Next Generation Lower Layer Split – puts more processing onus for uplink beamforming on the RU, where Ericsson says dedicated chips can more efficiently process Massive MIMO radio calculations, compared to the COTS servers that host vDUs.
What Ericsson did not say in today’s public statement is if its commitment to support OFH from 2024 also means it will support third party RUs from its C-RAN platform.
In a separate statement to TMN it said:
“In principle, yes, the introduction of open fronthaul support in the Cloud RAN portfolio enables the integration of third-party radios after the specification is finalised and an interoperability and testing profile has been approved.
“The actual scope and timeline of such integration activities would be subject to customer discussions, factoring in cost to integrate, suitable radio partners, and use cases, as well as a setup for feature testing and lifecycle management over time.
As such, the date would be dependent on customer need and discussion.”
That statement appears to put a lits of conditions in front of third party integration, with many market watchers already suspecting that Ericsson’s transition to Open RAN adoption is as much about being able to state it is open – something that would help operators with an Open RAN deployment target, for example – as it is about fostering a more diverse RAN ecosystem.
The statement added that there are now over a million Ericsson RUs in the field that are “hardware ready” to support NG-LLS – meaning they have the chip support on the RU necessary to support the increased uplink beamforming processing detailed in NG-LLS.
Ericsson has signalled and stated for a while now that it will, in time, transition its radio portfolio to support Cloud RAN architectures, with its vRAN software able to be deployed either in its own Cloud infrastructure or in a variety of hardware options. It has announced Intel-based server support with Dell and HPE, as well as a strategic collaboration on 5G SoCs with Intel, including the adoption of Intel’s vRAN boost technology. Last week, Ericsson said it was collaborating with Google Cloud to deploy RAN software in Google Distributed Cloud.
As it offers operators a choice of Cloud RAN or dedicated RAN architectures, Ericsson has said that it wants to move to a common fronthaul interface across its portfolio. That interface will, in time, be Open Fronthaul. To enable that transition Ericsson was a proponent for the new category of fronthaul interface within O-RAN that it said would enable O-RAN networks to process Massive MIMO more efficiently.
The company has said it will also use a common automation and management platform across its dedicate, cloud and Open RAN-compliant equipment, and it said today that network programmability was one of its three key pillars for Open RAN support, along with open fronthaul adoption and cloudification.