Highlights From Customer Interviews With Elisa, NTT DoCoMo, Telus, and Vodafone

I had the opportunity to sit in on some TelecomTV interviews with our customers and it was fascinating to hear their perspectives on automation, innovation, Open RAN, and several other topics.

In this blog I’ve captured some of what I thought were the most interesting themes as discussed by our customers:

  • Sushil Rawat, Director, RAN Strategy, Telus
  • Francisco (Paco) Martin Pignatelli, Head of Open RAN, Vodafone
  • Sami Komulainen, EVP Production, Elisa
  • Sadayuki Abeta, Head of Open RAN, NTT DOCOMO

You can view the full interviews here.

Each interview had slightly different question sets based on the interviewee. Generally, each interview covered: recent announcements, industry readiness for Open RAN, how Open RAN benefits the end customer, and engagement with Wind River. The Elisa interview was more centered on Automation vs. Open RAN but some of the themes still apply.

Recent announcements

Figure 1On the topic of recent Open RAN announcements and upcoming tenders, Vodafone’s Paco Martin Pignatelli said, “It's all happening now, and we wanted for this time in Vodafone to be ready, to be prepared, to get big in Open RAN. So we have now a very big tender that is going to be over 170 ,000 sites, and there is a massive opportunity for us with Open RAN. We are going to be enabling a fantastic opportunity to have better cost and innovations. The collaboration with Wind River has been great for that.”

Figure 2And Sushil Rawat from Telus talked about the recent news about O-RAN vendor selection, “We announced that we are going to deploy Open RAN technology architecture starting end of this year, say Q4 of 2024, which will allow us to deploy 50% of our network with Open RAN technology in the next few years. We deployed around 14 sites in one of the urban areas in Ontario and we have been closely monitoring performance of those sites and we are very happy and delighted that the performance of those sites is so satisfactory that we have decided to migrate our rest of the network on the Open RAN and virtual RAN architecture.”

Performance: “We ticked the box”

Figure 3Continuing on the topic of performance, Paco mentioned,  “We have a field- testing city, Ciudad Real, close to Madrid, and we've been testing extensively our Open RAN configuration versus traditional, and you know what? The results are amazing. Open RAN comes always better than the lower part of any KPI. So, I'm talking about downlink and uplink performance. Also, latency for 4G, for 5G SA, 5G NSA. So it comes always within the range, sometimes even exceeding the upper part of the range. So I think we can confidently say to everybody out there in the industry, every potential customer out there for you guys [Wind River], that Open RAN is working, the performance is okay, we ticked the box.”

System Integration: Challenging or Exciting? Maybe both?

Integration is generally considered a top challenge for Open RAN adoption. But maybe not so much for Telus. Sushil said, “There is a lot of messaging around how difficult it is to integrate the [Open RAN] system. Our experience has been different. We found it very exciting and it's very close group work that you do and there is a sense of camaraderie when you work with particular suppliers and it's not as complicated as it has been said. It's very straightforward. We could do this system integration work in less than six months of time. So there's definitely one that, if you want to do it, I think system is mature now and you should try it.”

Figure 4For those who find integration is not so straightforward, NTT DOCOMO’s  Sadayuki Abeta had this to say: “We provide pre-integration solution together with OREX partners like Wind River. So operators can use pre-integrated solution. That operation becomes very simple, but still they have that opportunity to select the vendor…[we] provide simplified operation to simplify that to reduce the cost of the integration.”


It Takes a Team

There was an interesting theme of teamwork and collaboration that came up a few times. Regarding Open RAN, Paco said, “You need to be ready to contribute as well, because this collaboration is very important. So we have that principle ourselves as a big mobile operator. We're going to be helping others to come in. So anybody listening that wants to learn more about our experience in Open RAN or our experience with Wind River, please reach out. But you need to be ready to give something, right?”

Figure 5Also on the topic of teamwork, Elisa’s Sami Komulainen commented on what was required for success in a recent project, “It's a long term trip through the continuous improvement, how to go improvement in efficiency and quality. And this is the remarkable step in that sense, when we think about full cloudification end to end. And of course it's important that we have trusted partners like Wind River. When you set up targets together and focus on that, you can do whatever you want. So everything is doable.”

Automation and innovation for the Future

Automation is another important theme for Elisa as it has the promise of making the customer experience better while simultaneously controlling costs. About automation and innovation, Sami said, “Well, you're looking always at breaking boundaries and I want to be the front runner because we see the benefits when you do the first things in the world and you find innovations first in the world. Through that, we can provide value to our customers and stakeholders. I think that we continue with that together with Wind River and breaking those boundaries, and do the new innovations and build value for the customers and stakeholders together.

Figure 6Continuing on the topic of innovation, Paco said this, “One of the main principles is the ability to have innovation, wherever that is. So you can have that startup company somewhere that came up with an algorithm that is going to be improving the capacity in the network. Then you can use it in your Open RAN architecture much more easier than ever before. So it's about innovation, but it's also about cost. We need to have the opportunity to reduce the cost for us to be able to deploy more as an operator, and the Open RAN is certainly enabling that. We see that today with the deployments that we are having, but even more, we see the opportunity for the future to reduce much more and to innovate and deliver great stuff.

Total cost of ownership (TCO)

And of course it seems no telecommunications conversation would be complete without a mention of TCO, but the conversation is shifting somewhat away from simple cost savings toward growth opportunity.

Figure 7NTT DOCOMO recently released some impressive TCO reduction statistics. Abeta-san commented,  “Okay, so we actually do a nine year TCO. So not only a single year, that's nine years. And we calculated the power, based on the latest chipset, including in that we have many accelerator vendors. Then we see the gain of the vRAN itself. But we also consider that in our case we can centralize the network so we can share the resource between the RAN core, even through the data center. So we can reduce the total number of servers that also reduces the site rental and also can reduce the power consumption, energy itself.

Figure 8Sushil also spoke of TCO in terms of what you see today and what is expected in the future, but with a slightly more bullish take, “We are very vocal that the TCO is a bit better, but that's not what you see on day one.  On day one you'll see, okay, I'm a bit lower than the traditional RAN, but over the period of time, now since your focus is more software- based and you have removed your dependence on hardware, now you have the capability to improve your TCO on a regular basis.

You can push the software capabilities further north and then you will have more capacity. And you can introduce new technologies which can do better resource management and whatnot. So basically, you're able to now yield more performance out of the system that is deployed and that's just additional TCO saving that will keep coming and that is something that you can't count on for day one. So I think we are looking forward to having more and more TCO savings.”

To find out more about what Elisa, NTT Docomo, Telus, and Vodafone are working on right now, and how Wind River is helping all of them, be sure to check out the full-length videos here.


About the author

Jeff Gowan is a Director for Industry Marketing at Wind River