Accelleran adds 5G to its Open RAN mix, Open RAN
Accelleran has added standalone 5G support to its cloud-native Open RAN management software suite, dRAX, including what the company’s CEO calls a “Real Product RIC … not an open source benchmark or design. that people use today ”.
The Antwerp, Belgium-based startup, which recently raised € 6.8 million in a Series B funding round, is looking to ride the wave of growing interest in Open RAN architectures among network operators. And, of course, he’s European, which puts him in the spotlight for the quintet of major operators – Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, TIM and Vodafone – looking to strengthen the region’s Open RAN ecosystem.
And while many other companies specializing in the Open RAN industry are currently focusing on virtual RAN software or remote radio products, Accelleran focuses its attention on the software elements that drive an Open RAN deployment – the “control and monitoring functions”. resource management, ”including RAN intelligent controller (RIC), service orchestration software, and control and user plan software for the centralized unit (CU).
And everything has been developed for microservices deployments, notes CEO Frédéric Van Durme (photo above). “Our code is suitable for embedded environments and applies to edge and cloud-based scenarios. The architecture is all about microservices… we just don’t put software in virtual machines. The software is scalable, so we can go from private networks to large networks to IoT networks. And we religiously adhere to open architectures – open interfaces are respected and interoperability is ensured [to enable] cutting-edge components rather than end-to-end solutions, ”he says.
So this is all great in theory, but how does it all work out in the real world? While everything should be open and interoperable, Van Durme says the industry needs pre-integrated packages comprising several interoperable components to facilitate integration and adoption. “It may contradict openness, but we need pre-integration… we need turnkey plans and deployments, certainly in the early phases of markets… integration of disaggregated elements [elements] is a key success factor ”at the start of Open RAN, says the CEO.
This is a contradiction which, naturally, is raised like a red flag by many industry players: isn’t pre-integration likely to lead to proprietary combinations of elements that cancel out some the main declared advantages of Open RAN?
“Our components are containers in an IT environment. If the standard interfaces are followed, integration should be a breeze. Now, of course, I’m exaggerating, ”laughs the CEO, who notes that the key to making this work is the industry’s willingness to ensure that every RAN component must have open interfaces. And he admits it’s easier said than done: “Interfaces need to be respected – people who understand the intricacies of RAN know it’s not easy… but we need to keep pushing and demystifying them. elements. ”
Van Durme says it is possible, that the will is there: he highlights the SONIC initiative in the UK which aims to broaden the supplier ecosystem for UK network operators and “examine the reality of Open RAN” . Accelleran was part of a multi-vendor effort with Mavenir, Radisys, Benetel, Phluido, Druid, Effnet, and Foxconn.
Now the CEO and his team can provide 5G support to SONIC and other engagements. The company has been promoting a 4G version of dRAX for some time now, but the new version adds 5G support in the service management and orchestration software, the central unit software ( control plane and user, an xApp development platform and, of course, the all-important intelligent radio access network (RIC) controller, the brains of an Open RAN architecture (see native 5G Open RAN software dRAX of Accelleran now available).
“The essential piece is the RAN smart controller… we have a really produced RIC… not a benchmark or open source design that people mainly use today. This is fully produced and deployable and able to harness and contain near real-time and non-real-time data acquisition, ”said the CEO, who also praises all of the cloud-native virtues of the software the company has developed ( DevOps, CI / CD, “religiously” open interfaces for third party applications, etc.).
So where does Van Durme think Accelleran can make a name for himself? How to gain a foothold in the market?
He believes that the first optimal opportunity lies in private networks for corporate users. “We are not neglecting neutral hosts or mobile operators, but private networks have a faster potential because they are mostly entirely new and companies understand these kinds of IT deployments” based on cloud native applications running on servers standard: “This is another set of Docker containers to deploy”, and this is already well understood by companies and integrators.
And where will these opportunities arise initially? “We follow the spectrum,” notes the CEO, referring to markets such as Germany and the UK where spectrum has been reserved for private wireless network deployments and, of course, in the US with spectrum. CBRS for 4G services.
When it comes to network operator commitments and relationships, Van Durme says he is limited by NDA agreements, as he is currently in identifying systems integration partners, but notes that he hopes to share more information in the coming months.
– Ray Le Maistre, editorial director, TelecomTV