Smart Communications has successfully deployed a fully functional Open Radio Access Network (ORAN) Proof of Concept (PoC), a first in the Philippines. The PoC was completed together with its partner NTT DOCOMO, INC. at the PLDT-Smart Technology Laboratory (Technolab) in Makati City.
Open RAN’s benefits include helping Smart save on cost, enabling Smart to be more flexible and agile, and making its network more intelligent. Reducing cost to deliver will allow Smart to provide more affordable services or better services for the same cost. Making the network more intelligent will allow Smart to offer new and innovative services faster and more efficiently.
This development is a significant milestone in Smart’s foray into Open RAN over the last three years. Smart has been exploring Open RAN since 2019 in order to find the most cost-effective solution in deploying and rolling out cell sites. ORAN allows the different components of the radio network to be disaggregated with the use of open-source software and general-purpose hardware.
In the said PoC, Smart successfully demonstrated file download speeds of more than 1Gbps, using an ORAN system in its laboratory. This demonstration is the first of several phases that Smart plans to test in order to confirm and understand the full potential of the technology.
Open RAN will allow Smart to mix and match hardware and software from any vendor, unlike in traditional vendor lock-in setups, wherein Radio Access Networks (RAN) equipment and software could only come from a single vendor for a specific area.
The ability to choose any vendor for software and for hardware separately, and at any time, will allow for flexibility and agility. Open RAN will also provide Smart with a vast ecosystem with more choices and deployment options. The same vast ecosystem is expected to lower prices due to increased competition and further foster innovations in the industry.
Open RAN will also enable Smart to serve Enterprise and Industry verticals better by employing multiple solutions from different vendors seamlessly.
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This is just the first step for Smart in its journey towards RAN disaggregation. Disaggregation means separating hardware from software to allow mobile operators like Smart to choose any brand or vendor and reduce CAPEX and OPEX.
Apart from its achievement in its Lab, Smart is a co-lead in Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN)’s Operating Disaggregated Networks (ODiN) project together with its international partners who are leaders in the telecom industry such as Deutsche Telekom, Bell Canada, Orange France, Telecom Italia, and China Mobile. This project aims to guide Network Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) and decision-makers in their journey toward end-to-end disaggregation. NGMN’s ODiN project has already released two white papers, which are available on the NGMN website.