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ONF Working With O-RAN Alliance

Jan 17, 2020
Timon Sloane
Timon Sloane About the author

With the dawn of 5G and continued success of the open networking movement, a lot of attention has become focused on the evolution of the Radio Access Network (RAN). 

Today, the ONF is pleased to announce we are working with the O-RAN Alliance to the benefit of telecom operators globally. O-RAN Alliance is a worldwide, carrier-led effort to drive new levels of openness and intelligence into the radio access network of next generation wireless systems. Their core principles envision future RANs to be built upon virtualized network elements, white box hardware and standardized interfaces.  

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O-RAN Alliance is currently developing a Reference Design (RD) specification for a disaggregated, open, virtualized, and intelligent RAN architecture, with the key objective to create logically centralized intelligent control of the RAN.

ONF and O-RAN’s cooperation creates a symbiotic relationship benefiting both entities’ ecosystems. ONF is working on an open source software implementation adhering to the O-RAN architecture, and we believe this will further accelerate the adoption of O-RAN and transformation of the RAN ecosystem.

The O-RAN Reference Design specification will be flexible, allowing for various implementation choices. O-RAN’s initial goal is to make it possible to construct implementations using a mix of vendor proprietary components (by breaking the RAN into RU, DU and CU components with standard interfaces between each).  But with this it will also become possible for open source components to be introduced into solutions, mixed with vendor proprietary components as best suits any operator’s implementation. O-RAN will also enable use of an Infrastructure Management Framework built from open source components, as well as the option to leverage an existing proprietary vendor solution.

ONF will develop an open source Exemplar Platform for O-RAN using a specific set of implementation choices. ONF’s solution will:

  • Include open source implementations of O-DU, O-CU-UP and O-CU-CP,
  • Implement O-CU-UP using P4,
  • Include an open source Near-Real Time RIC Controller implementation based on ONF’s ONOS,
  • Likely expand on the E2 interface to allow for scheduler control and network slicing, and contribute this enhancement back to O-RAN for inclusion in the specifications,
  • Enable interoperability with third party (vendor proprietary) RUs,
  • Leverage COTS and white box P4-capable switches,
  • Use ONF’s CORD open source edge cloud platform as the Virtualization Layer, VIM and Infrastructure Management Framework.

While the development of the ONF Exemplar Platform could progress faster than its O-RAN Reference Design counterpart, the implementation experience gained by ONF will help evolve the O-RAN specifications.   ONF will also consume this O-RAN Exemplar Platform in ONF’s COMAC project, where a converged, O-RAN compliant edge user plane will be developed that combines the mobile core user plane, the broadband access (BNG) user plane, and the O-CU-UP.

We look forward to our collaborative work with the O-RAN Alliance and doing our part to help transform the future of mobile networks!  To learn more or to become actively involved, please check out these resources: ONF CORD Project , ONF ONOS Project and the ONF P4 Project

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Timon SloaneVP, Marketing & Ecosystem
Timon Sloane is the vice president of marketing and ecosystem of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). He leads the organization’s efforts building an open source ecosystem, thus helping to enable broad transformation of the networking industry through the adoption open source business practices.