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IBM Accelerates Global Telco Transformation with Open RAN

By Steve Canepa | Global GM & Managing Director, IBM Communications Sector
March 26, 2021

Across the telco industry, one point that’s become clear is that mobile operators want choice and...

Across the telco industry, one point that’s become clear is that mobile operators want choice and flexibility as they evolve their core networks and transform their operations to drive new value. This is at the heart of why we’re seeing so many embrace an open, hybrid cloud strategy, and it’s a theme that goes hand in hand with the type of transformation we’re seeing in another part of the telco network: the Radio Access Network (RAN.) 

Historically, the RAN has typically used proprietary hardware and software from the same vendor. This has limited innovation and driven up costs for mobile operators. But in recent years, the industry has begun embracing Open RAN technology and standards, which relies on reshaping how RAN networks are designed and deployed to deliver interoperability and vendor choice. 

IBM supports the development of Open RAN standards, which is why we’ve been making important strides to apply our technology and expertise to help accelerate how mobile operators adopt Open RAN in order to monetize and innovate with 5G. 

In Argentina today, we’ve launched a proof of concept (PoC) with Movistar, a Telefonica brand, to deploy one of the first, fully functional Open RAN networks, covering 81,000 inhabitants in the city of Puerto Madryn. This PoC is enabling us to test live, commercial traffic and serves as an important early proof point for Open RAN technology as it continues to evolve and mature.   

For this PoC, IBM has led the systems integration, pre-integrating the solution and enabling its end-to-end deployment. We’ve also brought together components and systems from multiple software and hardware vendors, including Altiostar (an IBM Cloud for Telecommunications ecosystem partner), Red Hat, Quanta, Gigatera and Kontron. 

What’s really important about this implementation is that it demonstrates the telco industry's trust in IBM's deep experience as a systems integrator, as well as our proven tools and processes, to enable leading mobile operators to embrace emerging Open RAN technology. The PoC also serves as an additional proof point for the maturity of Altiostar's Open RAN software and further strengthens their position as an IBM Cloud for Telecommunications ecosystem partner in the Open RAN domain.

Adding to the momentum of this news, IBM also recently announced the launch of an Open RAN Center of Excellence in Spain to drive Open RAN adoption across Europe. The center leverages the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications and its ecosystem partners Altiostar and Juniper. IBM’s existing Telco Network Cloud Lab locations in Nice (France) and Dallas (USA) will serve as a network for knowledge and resource sharing with the new center. The center will focus on live implementations that are similar to the Telefonica/Movistar PoC in Argentina, but on a greater scale.

Central to the industry's progress around Open RAN is the need to re-shape the RAN industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks. IBM’s open hybrid cloud architecture aligns to this objective by supporting choice across RAN technology suppliers and delivering agility in how mobile operators move and manage workloads across IT and network environments. IBM's technology and expertise are enabling operators to seamlessly manage network functions and data applications across various on-premises, private and public cloud environments, and tap into an ecosystem of partners that support similar flexibility and choice. 

Open RAN technology is expected to be deployed at nearly two thirds (65%) of all cell sites by 2026. As more mobile operators look at ways to leverage Open RAN, IBM’s strategy is crucial to helping them speed this adoptionAnd this is why IBM is poised to lead mobile operators around the world into the next era of connectivity.

Steve Canepa
IBM’s Global GM & Managing Director, Communications Sector

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