RIC at the Helm: Pioneering An Ecosystem Play | i14y Lab Summit

RIC at the Helm: Pioneering An Ecosystem Play | i14y Lab Summit

i14y Lab Summit featured a group discussion focused on how to utilize the RIC successfully and what labs and the community can do to encourage developing new rApps/xApps.


Here is an overview of what was discussed, but you can watch the complete discussion below.

RIC at the Helm: Pioneering An Ecosystem Play | i14y Lab Summit

RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) Is Building Real Innovation Within Open RAN

How the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) is going to be the backbone of building real innovation within Open RAN and what the current as well as future applications of RIC are was the topic Shamik Mishra (Capgemini Engineering), Soma Sarkar f(Nokia), Timo Jokiaho (Red Hat), and moderator David Hutton (Telecom Infra Project / TIP) discussed at this year’s i14y Lab summit.


What is the real maturity of the interface specifications with RIC? What will it take to get more people involved with the overall innovation of RIC? Are there even standards yet? These are questions debated in the Open RAN community and which were addressed during the panel discussion.


The discussion amongst these industry professionals suggests that the latest version of the RIC specifications, version 3, is fairly mature - but when it comes to the RIC APIs, those are still evolving. Nokia representative Soma Sarkar noted that there is a:

Hope that the APIs would get standardized and that would then make (...) the xApps (...) interoperable. (...) I think (...) the solutions are also evolving. We have, based on the existing specifications, developed the solutions. We are working with multiple operators, and that's also giving us an opportunity to learn. So when we are working with the operators with the solutions we are learning, and based on those learnings we take back and evolve the solution. Similarly, not just with the operators, but also for example, using the i14y Lab as an example, where we've been able to work with different partners. Partners who are bringing different xApps with which we are integrating our solution and seeing if there are interoperability challenges, how we can overcome that. Working together with the ecosystem, the vendors, the operators, and the partners together to iron out those challenges, and then see how we can move ahead together.”

 - Soma Sarkar | Nokia


RIC is still a fairly new concept that comes with a big culture shift where  networks need to share data enabling  3rd parties, some of whom are developers unfamiliar with Open RAN,  to build applications using that data. As of now, what is available to be used by application providers is limited, so this inevitably stops innovation before it starts. There is a challenge when it comes to this open collaboration. As Timo Jokiaho from Red Hat explains:


“The data has been proprietary, and it's very sensitive data, that's for sure. That's the reason it has not been shared very widely earlier, because with that data, you can optimize the radio environment, you know, performance and all of these things. Or disrupt it. Now that has to change to some extent in my opinion. And RIC again, plays a big role there. But how to make that happen? It needs an ecosystem as we are speaking today and the lab like the i14y lab, but what it really needs within the ecosystem…is a trust between the partners so that partners know that if I talk to this person and I share my data, and we decide, or we agree that this data can be shared between these partners, which was not the case before, it requires a lot of trust. And as we all know, building the trust between the partners in the ecosystem is not an easy thing to do.”

- Timo Jokiaho | Red Hat


However, labs like i14y allow for the group as a whole to come together and identify what is really needed to be exposed from the network in order to build out these applications and innovate further. 


Shamik Mishra of Capgemini Engineering suggests truly opening the ecosystems to include application developers if the industry is to expand on the OpenRAN ecosystem as a whole. However this brings another difficulty:

“[An] open developer ecosystem is hard to manage. I remember the days when OpenStack was launched, everybody had an opinion, everybody had a project, and there was the big tent concept, and then everything kind of became a problem before things had to be better governed. So, yes, I think the way forward is to build an ecosystem which attracts developers, which provides developers with the right set of tools and sandboxes and testing and test facilities, but at the same time ensuring that there is a level of testing validation done before an application is allowed to access the network.”

- Shamik Mishra | Capgemini Engineering

So, how do we make sure all the proper precautions are taken in order to open the environment to anyone who may spark an interest? Suggested methods point to stronger outreach programs to encourage those unfamiliar with the ecosystem to educate themselves. Shamik continued stating, “The cloud ecosystem has shown that it's possible to build sandboxes and attract developers. The difference is the Open RAN is not cloud, and a significant part of it is physical hardware and radio. So the development of sandboxes, I think, is critical. We also have to bring in a lot of test and measurement companies into the sandboxes so that things can be emulated. Different types of networks, different types of traffic can be emulated from a radio perspective, from a mobile perspective, from a device perspective, so that an application developer can actually get a simulated environment to figure out what they need to do as an application provider.”


RIC has a huge amount of potential for innovation in the area of Open RAN, but there still are some challenges that need to be worked on together, for instance areas such as standards and direction in driving the market. The importance of labs like i14y to provide test beds, test activities and sandboxes makes sure the RIC ecosystem is going to be a mature and open platform of innovation. 


For the full conversation, along with all of the other presentations given at this year’s i14y Lab Summit, go to our i14y Lab Summit 2023 page:

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