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Pioneering O-RAN Integration, Testing, and Deployment for Next Generation Networks

Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) promotes the use of open and interoperable standards, allowing network operators to mix and match hardware and software components from different vendors, thus reducing costs, enhancing network performance, and fostering innovation by deploying new services. O-RAN follows the same concept as public clouds in that it breaks the vertically integrated technology stacks in favor of a horizontally layered architecture using commodity hardware and virtual network functions. This would ideally offer more choice and less vendor lock-in for the telco.

The adoption of O-RAN has is slowly gaining steam, with most of the early traction seen in Open Testing and Integration Centers of the O-RAN Alliance. However, things started to change recently after major Mobile Network Operators such as AT&T [December 2023], Deutsche Telekom [December 2023], and Telus [February 2024] announced deals to roll out O-RAN in their networks.

At Reailize, we are continuously assessing O-RAN’s challenges while offering pervasive Lab to Production O-RAN Integration, Testing, Deployment capabilities, leveraging AI/ML in this domain with a rich dataset.

O-RAN Challenges

O-RAN presents opportunities for more flexibility and innovation, but not without some challenges.
A major obstacle is interoperability and compatibility of equipment and software from various providers to avoid complications for network operators. In the absence of clear and mature standards, there is a risk that different network components may struggle to interface with each other effectively. Current mitigations include relying on a single vendor for the O-RAN stack. However, this is counter to the core objective of O-RAN to be open and allow for multi-vendor implementations.
Performance, reliability, and security are additional concerns. Thorough testing is crucial to build trust in these open solutions, preventing issues during critical situations. Security measures must be robust to adequately counter new threats in O-RAN’s disaggregated
setup. Companies need to be vigilant and build strong defenses to protect against inevitable new threats that bad actors introduce to exploit the O-RAN environment.
Testing and validation add complexity and are time-consuming and expensive. Standardization is vital to prevent communication issues between different network components. Without clear standards, there’s a risk that parts of the network won’t be able to talk to each other, complicating interoperability.
Integrating O-RAN with existing systems is a challenge, as bridging the gap between old and new architectures can slow down the transition.

Reailize O-RAN Integration, Testing, and Deployment

Reailize approaches the O-RAN challenges holistically. Rather than only focusing on vendor hardware and software interoperability through emulation tools, Reailize examines end-to- end compatibility, performance, and user experience. We believe that this approach provides better end results sooner and certainly before creating production issues.

Reailize’s O-RAN testing ensures robust and reliable deployment, addressing critical aspects such as interoperability, compliance, security, and performance. Reailize enhances testing infrastructure efficiency and flexibility, offering a scalable, cost-effective solution that adapts to evolving customer needs. It expedites development cycles by providing a flexible environment for rapid testing and validation of O-RAN components, establishing secure testing environments with features like encryption and authentication. Reailize also enables customers to analyze and process data from new O-RAN interfaces and component log files.
Reailize uses test automation and pretrained machine learning models for end-to-end testing of telecom services in both laboratory and production settings. This includes the assessment of all O-RAN interfaces (F1-C, F1-U, E1, E2, and Open Front Haul), enabling testers to visualize service flows, identify failure scenarios, and conduct root cause analysis and diagnostics efficiently.

Reailize adheres to the O-RAN Alliance test and integration group specifications to ensure comprehensive testing across various facets of O-RAN functionality

Functional testing validates that each component of the O-RAN ecosystem performs its intended functions correctly, including verifying the behavior of individual elements and their interactions within the broader network architecture.

Performance testing focuses on assessments of throughput, latency, and resource utilization to ensure the system’s responsiveness and efficiency under varying conditions.

Services end-to-end testing verifies that O-RAN networks can deliver intended services reliably and consistently, evaluating end-to-end functionality against predefined criteria for quality of service (QoS) and reliability.

Security testing identifies vulnerabilities and ensures appropriate safeguards are in place to protect against potential threats and attacks.

Load and stress testing assesses the resilience of O-RAN systems under heavy usage and adverse conditions, simulating high loads and adverse scenarios to identify potential bottlenecks and performance limitations.

Testing specific to RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller) enabled use cases, validates RIC functionality and interoperability within the O-RAN ecosystem for overall efficiency and effectiveness. For example, Reailize validates network slicing services, covering policy assignment, latency, and throughput in both fronthaul and backhaul networks. Using advanced analytics, it identifies bottlenecks, ensuring seamless operation within the O-RAN framework.

Reailize O-RAN testing capability matrix

Reailize’s testing framework is equipped to evaluate a wide range of potential issues that may arise within O-RAN deployments. By addressing these critical areas, Reailize facilitates the deployment of robust and reliable O-RAN solutions that meet the evolving needs of modern telecommunications networks:

• Examining configuration settings of vital components like the Central Unit (CU), Radio Unit (RU), and Distributed Unit (DU). Incorrect configurations can lead to performance issues.

• Automation of configuration discrepancy reports

• Verifying O-RAN interface specifications to prevent communication breakdowns
that could hinder data and signaling flow.

• Conducting rigorous testing for latency and timing synchronization issues. In O-RAN architectures, precise timing synchronization is vital for optimal network performance.

• Identifying software bugs within the firmware or software of RU or DU to guarantee the stability and reliability of O-RAN deployments.

• Assessing compatibility with other network elements like IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and 5G Core to prevent disruptions in service delivery and ensure integration within the broader network environment.

Conclusion

Reailize’s testing solutions navigate the complexities of O-RAN adoption, unlocking its full potential. By adhering to O-RAN standards and addressing key factors like interoperability, performance, security, and compatibility, Reailize streamlines the deployment journey, guaranteeing the dependability of O-RAN networks. With Reailize’s expertise, telecommunication operators are empowered to confidently transition to O-RAN, heralding a future of open, efficient, and innovative mobile networks.