Spotlight on Tech

The truth about RAN Intelligent Controller – What’s been accomplished and what's still ahead

February 23, 2024
minute read

We would like to thank members of the Rakuten Symphony CTO organization who contributed to the development of the white paper, "From Blueprint to Reality: O-RAN RIC Unveiled":

  • Ravi Chamarty, Senior Principal Engineer, CTO Office
  • Manjari Chhawchharia, Senior PMTS, CTO Office
  • Kexuan Sun, Principal Wireless Architect, CTO Office

A brief summary of the white paper can be found below.

The ability to add innovative new features into the radio access network (RAN) is one of the promises of the decomposed architecture of Open RAN. Replace a closed RAN system with one with open interfaces that can run on commercial-off-the-shelf hardware platforms and you have the ability to pick network elements from a variety of vendors. This optimizes end user services and adds new functionality for better management of the increasing complexities of modern networks.

This last area of innovation is where the emerging RAN intelligent controller (RIC) holds a lot of promise.

The RIC has been discussed and promised for several years, but now it’s starting to show up in plug fests and trials. As presented in a new Rakuten Symphony white paper (From Blueprint to Reality: O-RAN RIC Unveiled) we can see just how much impact the RIC can have on Open RAN-based 4G and 5G networks.

What is a RIC?

The main systems that mobile network operators (MNOs) use for efficient management, optimization, and orchestration of the RAN include operations support systems (OSS), service management and orchestration (SMO) and self-organizing networks (SON).

With RIC, the capability of these management systems can be expanded by adding third-party apps to deliver specialized management functionality. This happens on two timelines: near-real time (near-RT) and non-real time (non-RT). Optimizations that require decisions to be made within a second can be hosted by xApps at the near-RT RIC. rApps which operate on a longer timescale reside at the non-RT RIC.

Challenges in using RIC

Despite the promising benefits offered by RICs, the technology is new and has some challenges. Rakuten Symphony's new white paper details some of the challenges in terms of gaps in standards, conflict mitigation, need for new data models and certain interfaces. There is also work to be done adapting the technology for use with 4G networks. Based on our understanding and interaction with industry experts, vendors and operators, the RIC technology and the ecosystem to support it will take time to mature and become commercially viable.

The promise of the innovation brought by the RIC will enable MNOs to continue to adapt their network for the latest services and to meet a wide range of KPIs. While this technology is in trial mode, the impact it will have is worth investing the time required to adopt it into your network. Rakuten Symphony is here to help. Read more details in our white paper and then let us know if you have any questions.

If you're attending MWC Barcelona 2024, please be sure to stop by the Rakuten booth (#2D46) for demos and discussions around RIC technology.

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