3 Things to Consider When Shopping for Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways

By Jeremy Ladner 8 min read

We are about to witness an unprecedented spike in the number of global cell sites. The jump from around 1 million cell sites to nearly seven million by 2027 will require a corresponding number of capable routers. Before operators make router purchasing decisions It’s vital to consider the potential impact that Disaggregated Open Routers (DOR), and the subset of Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSG) will play.

According to a recent industry survey from Omdia, nearly 67% of network operators will integrate DCSG into their network architecture by the end of 2023. An additional 23% are planning to add DCSG in 2024. That takes us to a total of 90% DCSG adoption in less than two years.

Disaggregation’s impact on the telecom industry will be enormous. No more monolithic vendor lock-ins. Increased vendor competition. Downward pressure on per-unit prices. Faster innovation cycles. Far greater freedom and flexibility for customers. All of that is great news for Network Operators and Communication Service Providers (CSPs). However, some legitimate apprehension about moving away from single vendor end-to-end network architecture towards open, best-of-breed disaggregated solutions still exists.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at 3 key areas of lingering concern operators have about the adoption of Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSG) along with some ways to mitigate those worries.

  1. Lack of Experience

New vendors offer an influx of fresh ideas, innovative solutions, and much-needed competition. They also introduce an element of uncertainty caused by a real or assumed absence of practical hands-on experience. Will a new vendor be able to provide operational support during network outages? Will they be able to get your downed network up and running in a timely manner?

These are valid concerns. Rather than focusing on vendors I suggest starting with the technology. Create a shortlist of Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSGs) with the technical specifications that meet or exceed the needs of your network. Then invest the time in vetting your vendors.

While there are some white box vendors that are totally new, it’s likely that key members of their R&D and support teams are seasoned pros. If you are looking to minimize risk, it’s wise to go with an established vendor like Ceragon that has real-world experience and teams of trained professionals deployed globally that are ready to spring into action when your network is in need. Ceragon perfectly pairs decades of trusted telecom experience with the nimble innovative design approach employed in developing the radio-aware IP-50FX 2-in-1 Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway and Virtual Indoor Unit (IDU).

  1. Multi-Vendor Interoperability

Disaggregation and open network architecture only work if all your vendor partners have invested the time in designing devices that fully utilize common networking protocols that enable easy and efficient Interoperability between your network elements. Network operators’ worries about new vendors' inability to fully support all relevant networking protocols are justified. The lack of full support can limit the freedom and flexibility that makes disaggregation so attractive while potentially impairing network operations.

Network protocols are an established set of rules that determine how data is transmitted between different devices in the same network. You can think of it as a language and a corresponding set of definitions. If the devices you purchase from a new vendor speak a ‘different language’ than the existing devices in your network, have a limited vocabulary, or utilize a different definition for a common function, collaboration, and seamless efficient network operation become a real challenge.

To maximize the multi-vendor interoperability of the IP-50FX 2-in-1 DCSG and Virtual Indoor Unit, Ceragon partnered with IP Infusion, the industry leader in open Network Operating Systems. IP-50FX DCSG running IP Infusion’s OcNOS uses segment routing to streamline and simplify network operation. Segment routing also provides additional flexibility and versatility for multiple use cases that require network slicing while enabling improved 5G traffic engineering, increased operational efficiency, and elevated network availability.

While there are other routers that offer limited radio interoperability, Ceragon’s IP-50FX sets itself apart thanks to its Radio Aware Open Networking (RAON) software and Telecom Infra Project (TIP) certification. The TIP certification provides operators with an additional level of assurance that Ceragon’s DCSG meets Their rigorous standards for open and disaggregated transport networks.

  1. New Vendor Longevity

Buying dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of network elements from a new vendor is a massive and potentially risky investment in the future. Network operators are betting on the fact that those devices will be included in long-term product roadmaps that will evolve over time. They expect that their investment will be supported with the requisite software patches and updates to keep them functioning optimally within their network for years to come.

A concern that some network operators have is that new vendors will attempt to penetrate the market with a strong initial product offering, find limited success, and then quietly slip out the back door leaving their existing customers with racks and towers full of equipment that is no longer supported.

Take your time getting to know a potential new vendor. Feel free to ask questions about their plans for the future and what they have in the works for follow-up offerings. Is the vendor limited to a handful of hardware products or do they provide a full catalog of hardware solutions, software, and integration services and support?

it’s always worthwhile considering both new and mature vendors especially when it comes to Disaggregated Open Routers (DOR) and DCSGs. When operators choose to partner with an established vendor like Ceragon they benefit from a proven track record stretching back decades, an extensive family of hardware, proprietary software, and integration services, along with a commitment to a carefully crafted technology roadmap.

Omdia’s recent industry survey examining network operators' concerns about Disaggregated Open Routing (DOR) and DCSG includes several elements of encouraging news. When nearly all the respondents confirm that they plan on adding DCSG to their networks over the next 24 months, there is a great reason for optimism for disaggregation and open network design. It’s clear that we’ve reached a tipping point with DCSG and as more CSPs adopt the technology and begin to experience the real-world benefits, the few who still have concerns will undoubtedly be quick to follow.

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