What is O-RAN Testing?

By Engaged Expert Dan Pino

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The modern world relies heavily on connectivity to function, and cellular networks are crucial to that connectivity. Open Radio Access Networks, or O-RANs, make mobile networks more flexible and more resilient, preventing a single radio equipment manufacturer from monopolizing a network, but creating components with universal interoperability is challenging when manufacturers are not developing them in direct collaboration with one another. Interoperability testing to shared third-party standards seeks to solve this problem.

What is O-RAN? 

An Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) is an implementation of a radio access network (RAN) where cellular network components from different manufacturers can be used interchangeably. This method of using interchangeable components is referred to as “network disaggregation”. The O-RAN uses a modular approach with the goal that the various components (e.g. the open radio unit or O-RU, the open central unit or O-CU, and the open distributed unit or O-DU) will function as a working RAN. For this type of system to function, it is critical that all components are compatible with one another, despite being produced by different vendors.

What does interoperability entail?

Interoperability for an O-RAN system means that the various components and software function together seamlessly within the RAN environment and maintain the system’s cybersecurity. Component interoperability makes O-RAN systems feasible and promotes the adoption of open standards and interfaces, vendor neutrality, modular and scalable networks, innovation, and more efficient resource allocation.

What regulating body monitors O-RAN testing and implementation?

The O-RAN Alliance oversees all activity relating to O-RAN testing and implementation.

What is an OTIC?

The O-RAN Alliance recognizes an OTIC (Open Testing and Integration Center) as a body that is qualified and approved to carry out testing per the O-RAN Alliance test plan. There are currently 15 recognized OTICs globally.

What benefits does working with an OTIC provide to manufacturers?

An OTIC can issue one or all the following:

  • - An O-RAN Certificate, which validates compliance of a component to the O-RAN conformance tests for one or more O-RAN interfaces
  • - An O-RAN Interoperability (IOT) Badge, which proves interoperability of a pair of components connected together via an O-RAN interface
  • - An O-RAN End-to-End (E2E) Badge, which validates that a full system using all components is fully compliant to the minimum functionality and security requirements

Is O-RAN only for 5G?

O-RAN is not just for 5G, although a lot of the push in today’s market is for implementing 5G solutions. In the future, 6G communications will implement the O-RAN model of allowing various components to interface with one another.

Why is O-RAN important now?

The U.S. government is actively funding improvements for its 5G communications, especially for the military. The military is looking to O-RAN for its security requirements. Requesting O-RAN certifications or badging services now will ensure that component manufacturers will be prepared for a future where interoperability and flexibility for RAN implementation will be key.

To learn more about O-RAN testing, contact us today to speak with one of our experts.

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