By Joseph Waring

BT plays down open RAN cost benefits

BT Group views open RAN as just one of several paths operators can take to drive down costs and improve performance as they accelerate adoption of cloud and virtualised RAN technologies.

Neil McRae, MD of Architecture and Strategy and Chief Architect at BT Group, told Mobile World Daily ahead of his participation in a panel session today he doesn’t think open RAN on its own will make any difference in pricing, with the operator’s current findings indicating as much. “We need more underlying component providers for the prices to really change.”

While insisting open RAN is important for BT, particularly in making multi-vendor networks more scalable, he noted operators have choices to make in what technology to deploy, and open RAN has to make the grade in terms of cost, capability and sustainability.

McRae believes the controller element has strong potential to give operators new opportunities for radio optimisation to enable new applications and improved customer experience.

In terms of multi-vendor environments, he pointed to the risks of having interoperability at a lowest common denominator and to improve that, the industry needs much tighter integration than open RAN currently offers. “Open RAN is really defining the interface, but the components are still for the most part proprietary.”

Following the launch of open RAN trials in the UK city of Hull in January, McRae said BT will be testing open RAN small cells for private networks and for macro augmentation, noting “we see huge opportunity to deploy small cells in a way that gives the customer experience a huge boost”.