Open RAN: Challenges and Benefits of Deploying at Scale

Diana Adams
6 min readMay 22, 2024


Open RAN is a popular talking point in the telecommunications industry. What began as a controversial, new approach to building mobile networks, Open RAN is now top of mind for many service providers. Even the driest speakers in the industry perk up when talking about it. Although the progress and benefits in the Open RAN space sound promising, challenges remain.

Why All the Fuss about Open RAN?

The Radio Access Network (RAN) is considered the meat and potatoes of any service provider’s mobile network. It touches every single device running on the network, and it’s where the majority of money is spent.

Until recently, RAN was built using purpose-built hardware and software. Open RAN turns the historical RAN model on its head. As its name suggests, Open RAN is all about openness and interoperability. It separates the individual parts of the network.

Unlike traditional RAN, the framework for Open RAN makes room for different RAN parts vendors, software companies, and the open source community to innovate together in a thriving ecosystem.

It also allows for different RAN hardware and software components to work together in a flexible setting within the service provider’s RAN environment. The parts and protocols are standards-based, as defined by the O-RAN Alliance.

I’m sure right now you are thinking of all the challenges that service providers could face when mixing things up. However, vendor flexibility, along with more scalability, are some of the reasons Open RAN is so appealing.

Ericsson defines 3 pillars of Open RAN. Those are cloudification (the disaggregation of hardware and software), open fronthaul (open interfaces), and RAN programmability (the Intelligent Automation aspect). I will be referring to these three pillars throughout this article.

Open RAN: 3 Challenges and 3 Benefits to Consider
Open RAN: 3 Challenges and 3 Benefits to Consider

Challenges of the Scalable Open RAN Model


While Open RAN is still a new technology, it has come a long way in the past five years. There has been significant progress in Open RAN standardization. The challenge is that this technology and the standards have not been widely adopted (yet).

I think this will change over time as more vendors create standards-based RAN components and software that will challenge the status quo with new features and capabilities that can be implemented quickly. New players in the market are already beginning to shake things up.

In my opinion, it is also only a matter of time until service providers feel more confident about Open RAN. The adoption of Open RAN will likely be influenced and accelerated by consumers. Consumers drive everything, including innovation. As the demand for advanced 5G use cases increases, the transition to Open RAN will also increase.


When I think about Open RAN deployment, my mind races with many potential challenges. The key is to take a step-wise approach.

Consider the example of a bluefield approach to your deployment, which offers service providers an “evolution towards cloud-native technologies and open network architectures while leveraging existing infrastructure.”

According to an interview with Ericsson’s Klas Johansson at MWC24, “You don’t need to make it that complex. You can start with a couple of mainstream solutions. We can validate and pre-integrate quite a lot from the suppliers, leaving room for local adaptations when they are needed.”

One platform that assists with Open RAN deployment is the EIAP Ecosystem developed by Ericsson. This ecosystem gives service providers and third-party developers everything they need to build, validate, share and innovate automation apps (rApps).

In addition, many people don’t know there are more than one million Ericsson radios in the field that are hardware-ready for the next generation of open fronthaul technology. That number speaks for itself.


When I consider Open RAN’s multi-vendor environment, interoperability is at the forefront of my mind. Interoperability bridges the gap between vendors, not to mention security and performance issues.

Several important milestones have been achieved over the past couple years with regard to Open RAN interoperability (and standardization as mentioned above).

The O-RAN Alliance’s security specifications have made significant advancements with the goal of achieving a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA). When vendors implement the security requirements, it allows service providers to deploy Open RAN securely. You can read more about this on the O-RAN Alliance website.

Ericsson also has built-in security for Cloud RAN with ZTA in mind. You can read their whitepaper about Open RAN security at Zero Trust Architecture for Evolving RAN.

According to Ericsson, “The work by the O-RAN Alliance has been focused on defining standards and interfaces for an Open RAN architecture that enables different vendors and components to work together in the most efficient way. Open RAN is built on top of 3GPP architecture and is fully interoperable with the evolution of the broader network, including Core and Transport.”

Benefits of the Scalable Open RAN Model


I love the way Qualcomm describes it. “Open RAN opens the door for smaller vendors and startups to bring new ideas, technologies and solutions to the market. This increased competition fosters innovation, drives down costs, and ultimately benefits consumers…”

In other words, innovation will no longer be determined by a small group of vendors. Instead, you will have a vibrant ecosystem of vendors innovating and vying for your business. This benefits everyone.

With this additional flexibility, service providers can remain agile with changing market conditions, and their networks can be even further optimized. You could scale your network up or down as needed by separating the supply chains.

The flexibility that comes with Open RAN touches every aspect of your ability to upgrade, expand, and maintain your network.


Moving toward a fully programmable network boosts your network’s performance. Ericsson’s new Intelligent Automation Platform SMO entity uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics to deliver optimum performance and efficiency in the network.

According to Ericsson, “The Intelligent Automation Platform plays a key role in improving network performance and enhancing customer experience while delivering operational savings through industrial scale automation in the radio access network.”

Plus, less physical infrastructure and more optimized resource management leads to a lower carbon footprint.


One reason Open RAN is so attractive is because of its flexible approach to network management. The idea is that it will become easier. This will become more apparent as progress towards standardization and adoption continues.

This is not only because of the Intelligent Automation aspect in the network, but also the ability to mix and match interchangeable parts and components. The old argument that Open RAN’s multi-vendor model increases the complexity of network management is outdated.

One important part of the Intelligent Automation aspect is the O-RAN Alliance’s multi-vendor and multi-technology SMO platform to further ensure efficient operations. This platform enables openness and innovation in the RAN domain.

It applies automation at scale to further simplify the added complexity. It improves network performance and customer experience while lowering RAN operational costs. For more details on this, you can download the whitepaper.


I think Open RAN represents the future of mobile networks. As technology continues to evolve, Open RAN will continue to redefine the industry, especially as it becomes more widely adopted. This shift has already begun.

In December of 2023, AT&T made a $14 billion dollar Open RAN commitment to Ericsson. They plan to migrate up to 70% of their wireless traffic to an Open RAN network by 2026. For Open RAN supporters like me, this is huge.

As of last month, service providers in 27 countries are currently deploying/trialing Open RAN. In my opinion, the rate of adoption for Open RAN will depend on the continued progress with standardization, demonstrated interoperability, and flexible service innovation (which will secure new revenue for service providers).

This is an exciting time in the telecommunications sector. Just imagine how Open RAN will evolve over the next 5–10 years. Thank you for reading.

[Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in an X article, and it is sponsored by Ericsson.]



Diana Adams

Tech journalist, Apple ACN, Digital Transformation, IoT, 5G, AI and the future of tech.