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Feeding the African telecom consumer’s insatiable appetite for higher speed and connectivity, the telecom industry is expanding to innovative solutions. These solutions involve shifting to less costly, open-based networks with a broader vendor supply chain.

One such area of innovation and development for the African telecom industry has been the incorporation of radio access networks (RAN). Even though RAN is still in its infancy period, it is considered ground-breaking for the telecom industry. Radio access network has revolutionized the mobile access network building and enabled the network provider as well mobile operators to connect with a wider subscriber’s base. Radio access networks are addressing the high-performance requirements and offering a faster response, cheaper data and better coverage.

Radio access networks have emerged as the catalyst for enhancements in wireless services and networks while offering enhanced spectrum efficiency in an open technology model. Its open architecture acts as a hardware and software integrated platform. It is the nature of RAN architecture that enables cloud-native functions. RAN acts as a bridge for a user to access all the web applications and aims to create a solution that enables separation and disaggregation between the software and hardware with hosting software and open interfaces. It is these consistent improvements that RAN drives for, which generate new capabilities for further innovation.

RAN offers the digital service providers to work with new suppliers to cut their building costs and improve performance. This creates a vendor-neutral ecosystem of Radio Access Networks, thus reducing the dependency of the telecom industry on a restricted group of vendors.

Radio Access Networks enable the telecom industry to expand the existing networks or set up new ones. This becomes possible due to the diversified ecosystem of the supply chain. Moreover, the telcos can leverage RAN benefits of consistent innovation, open network architecture to integrate the right hardware and software and in the process, optimize and customize the networks.

While using traditional RAN in the African region, the telcos had no option to combine hardware and software components built by different vendors. Therefore, they chose business from a small number of vendors. However, radio access networks generate opportunities for telcos to work with both established companies and start-ups. 

The benefit of being able to curtail overall network costs and still retain a competitive edge with open interfaces and standardization through RAN is creating new revenue streams for the telecom industry players. The companies can leverage this technology to drive 5G deployment and make most of the software and hardware components regardless of their manufacturers. Moreover, RAN enables a broader customer to connect while offering a multitude of benefits such as the faster speed at low cost, which further enhances existing revenue opportunities.

With digital platform development, driving sustainability and staying energy-efficient has become a global phenomenon. RAN enters this domain and aims to make the base stations energy-efficient while implementing the white-box base station. The white-box base station hardware supports both baseband units and remote radio units. This paves a platform for the telecom industry to stay energy-efficient while adopting RAN.

Considering the 5G network is highly complex in comparison to the 4G networks, the need to simplify and manage the disrupting technology is even more. RAN efficiently helps the telecom industry to customize, implement and manage the 5G networks using automation such as AI (artificial intelligence). RAN leverages the next-gen solutions of automation which will further allow the management and optimization of 5G networks without an increase in the overheads.

While RAN simplifies the telecom network implementation, it also helps them keep track of the infrastructure costs. Since, with RAN the digital services providers do not have to use the proprietary software or hardware, the cost of vendor lock-in is significantly reduced. Further, they can also cut the infrastructure cost by procuring the hardware or software components from small vendors, while being a part of supply chain diversification.

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