Open Source and the Race to 5G

2 min read

5G offers faster network speeds for mobile devices. Beyond streaming video, the faster speeds provided by 5G would allow for computing and Internet of Things (IOT) devices at the network edge.

Robots on assembly floors could be guided and remote monitoring of patient medical devices at home could compute patient data and provide results to physicians instantaneously. In the years ahead, wireless will become critical infrastructure.

The move to virtualized mobile networks

In the past, mobile networks—the technology that drives cellular phone communication—were dominated by specialized hardware and software. Network vendors sold carriers and service providers specific hardware designed to perform specific functions.  

Today, telecommunication carriers can build out virtualized mobile networks using standard hardware and a variety of software while still taking advantage of proprietary hardware components like FPGA and GPUs. Essentially, providers can now improve performance by building networks in an open design, and partners are enabled as a result.

The virtualization of network functions has enabled new vendors to come into the 5G ecosystem and spurred new growth opportunities. The disaggregation of hardware and software functions has resulted in the independent development of each, leading to innovation and flexibility in scaling capacity. Such ecosystems thrive when built on maturing open standards such as O-RAN, as each function can be built independently of any vendor or any technology.

The historical approach

  • Expensive proprietary hardware
  • Physical installation required
  • Less competition means less innovation

The open approach

  • Independent software vendors
  • Easily orchestrated install process
  • Commodity servers with specialized chipsets

Red Hat as a foundation for delivering 5G

Meeting stringent requirements of timing, synchronization, and security is foundational to deploy 5G infrastructure. With the support of real-time kernel, Precision Time Protocol (PTP), and security enhancements on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat is providing a reliable cloud foundation for delivering 5G services.

With more than 10x cell-site densification expected from 5G, automating and orchestrating cell-site provisioning and managing daily operations becomes paramount. A vendor with a rich history of virtualization implementations is pivotal to partner with because they can continuously incorporate lessons from the field into the solutions. With many cloud-based network function virtualization (NFV) implementations under its belt, Red Hat’s open source technologies are proven in multi-vendor ecosystem deployments.  

Red Hat is a member of the O-RAN alliance and software products such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, OpenShift Container Platform, OpenStack, Middleware, and Ansible are used to build the foundation of open mobile networks for 5G and beyond.

OpenShift is also available on IBM Cloud as a fully managed service with Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud. The following video provides an intro to the service:

The telecommunication industry is ripe for agility, modernization, and standardization, all of which are best achieved using open source software and open alliances.

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