With the proposal to virtualize networks and reduce dependence on hardware, Open RAN (Open Radio Access Networks) promises to bring about major transformations and impact the telecommunications sector.
However, the technology is still in its early stages in Brazil. The subject was discussed in the panel “Open RAN: a road that all of us must build”, which was held at Futurecom 2022.
With mediation by Ana Paula Lobo, Editor-in-Chief of the Convergência Digital portal, the conversation was joined by the following specialists:
Marcia Ogawa Matsubayashi, Leading Partner of Technology, Media and Telecommunications at Deloitte; Livio Silva, Sales Executive at Red Hat; Roberto Gomes Corrêa, Technical Industry Specialist at Intel; Ralf Souza, General Director at Amdocs; Andres Madero, CTO at Infinera; Marco Bego, Director of Innovation at InovaHC; and Augusto Nellesen, from Itaú's Superintendence of Network and Data Center Solutions.
Keep reading the article and check out some of the considerations presented about Open RAN during the event!
The development of Open RAN and predictions on its use in Brazil
The first speaker, Marcia Ogawa, explained that Open RAN could bring possibilities that encompass different sectors going beyond telecommunications, such as health and education, to name a few.
“We have been educating the market for some time now about what Open RAN is, explaining how Open RAN can create up possibilities for Brazilian companies to enter the links in the telecommunications chains, and we have even set up a pilot to prove that this initiative is the right one”, she pointed out.
The Deloitte representative then noted that collaboration is the key for the connectivity model to advance and become a reality in the country.
“We know that these technologies are not as mature as others that already exist, but we have to imagine the architecture of putting the software on the hardware, and our project includes products from different suppliers with which we managed to assemble a network”, she analyzed.
Regarding Red Hat's experience as a supplier of technologies that make the solution feasible, Livio Silva commented that Open RAN, despite not having advanced so much, is still under development.
“Open RAN has not been left behind. It is a type of work that requires a certain level of maturity, as it is an ecosystem where all its members get to work together so that all these Open RAN solutions have a level of performance that matches that of existing solutions”, he said.
System maturity and cross-enterprise collaborations to advance Open RAN
After that, Roberto Corrêa, from Intel, presented his opinion on this path to make Open RAN viable. He provided an example:
“When we bring Open RAN to the market, we arrive at a broader discussion that involves questions that were not asked before: who will carry out this integration for me, and who will provide support? What does the cycle of this solution look like over a period of three to five years or more?”, he pondered.
Ralf Souza, from Amdocs, highlighted the journey that the company he represents has outlined for the system, recalling that the technology began to be considered in the company as early as 2016, with the company later joining the Open Ran Alliance.
For Ralf, the model represents a paradigm shift, which will also require a new mentality. He stated:
“In the past, we would have a single company providing an end-to-end supply; today, as mentioned, we have several companies participating in this chain with various tests, integrations, and it takes maturity to reach that point.”
Souza added: “This change ended up taking a while to happen, but we also had the issue of the pandemic, which led to a two-year delay, and operators are now investing in 5G. But we see this as an evolution so that we may arrive at effectively implemented Open RAN.”
Similarly, Andres Madero, from Infinera, explained that the adoption and development of technology requires maturity, which again involves collaboration between different companies.
“If you had asked me about this five years ago, I wouldn't have imagined that there would be a panel with so many people talking about Open RAN. When we talk about network virtualization, the first thought that comes to mind is: ‘We are going to be put out of business, because we work with equipment’, but if you look deeper into the issue, there is a distinct way in which anything open happens, and that is cooperation; this is precisely what Open RAN is,” he said.
Souza added: “From Infinera's perspective, we must build the roads so that everyone can build Open RAN. We must understand the technology that is being created so that we can create this system. We're still in business because not everything can be virtualized. And cooperation between private companies is a complex issue, with challenges and innovations zooming in at a very fast pace.”
Open RAN in practice: Itaú's initiative with InovaHC
Citing the case of the partnership between Itaú and InovaHC, under Hospital das Clínicas, Marco Bego commented that the initiative to use Open RAN with 5G enabled the development of the remote ultrasound exam solution. He explained:
“The use of ultrasound focused on having a social impact in, say, the North of Brazil, where only 4% of pregnant women had prenatal care.”
Bego continued: “We wanted to prove that it was possible to do it in real time and remotely, with the doctor accompanying the procedure and only one operator handling the technical part, and this was a possibility that we found with a new service with the use of 5G, which, in our opinion, it is the first of the many technologies that can be enabled.”
Complementing this vision and presenting Itaú's trajectory in the use of Open RAN, Augusto Nellesen highlighted that the initiative emerged during the pandemic, when the bank sought ways to reinforce its social actions with the use of technology.
“Once we understood what Open RAN is, we realized it's not a one-person game. Like everything Open, there are many challenges between Open Finance and Open RAN. This opportunity showed us that it is not a project for us to handle by ourselves. So we came in to help with the social aspect, and we learned what we could do for our 66 million customers”, he analyzed.
Also according to Nellesen, the system will continue to develop with these collaborations, with a particular focus on solutions for the population.
“Open RAN is not just about the technology, but about the problem it solves. In this case, it was to offer specialized access to people in need. As we scaled up, our level of learning increased; today, we have many Itaú products inspired by Open RAN, and we want to be together, especially in these actions of a social nature”, he concluded.
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