Open RAN and the future of mobile networks

Author(s): Emil J. Khatib

Open RAN brings a new spirit of openness to the radio access networks that form the foundation for the mobile revolution.

Mobile networks have been a major contributor to the technology and culture of the 21st Century. Companies such as Nokia or Ericsson shaped the early generations of the mobile revolution, orchestrated by industrial alliances such as GSMA, ETSI, or the 3GPP. These international organizations created open standards that enhanced competition and helped the growth of the sector. Fast forward to 2022, and the main actors have changed, with names such as Samsung, Apple, or Huawei shaping the smartphone market, but open standards have continued to play an important role.

Like many technological developments, the precedents of mobile communications go back to World War II. The concept of mobile telephones that could help soldiers on the field moved into the civilian sphere after the war, and the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s saw the emergence of portable communication systems such as citizens band (CB) radio, walkie-talkies and, finally, early cellular communications.

In the early 1990s, the second generation (2G) of mobile telephony networks made an appearance with the CDMA standard (which was mainly used in the Americas, Japan, and South Korea) and the GSM standard (which was popular in Europe, Africa, Australia, and much of Asia). 2G saw the explosion of mobile phones and effectively transformed the way we view telecommunications: It was no longer about communicating between places but about connecting individuals.

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