What Is a RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC)?

What Is a RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC)?

A RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) is a software-defined component of the Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) architecture that’s responsible for controlling and optimizing RAN functions. The RIC is a critical piece of the Open RAN disaggregation strategy, bringing multivendor interoperability, intelligence, agility, and programmability to radio access networks. The RIC enables the onboarding of third-party applications that automate and optimize RAN operations at scale while supporting innovative use cases that lower mobile operators’ total cost of ownership (TCO) and enhance customers’ quality of experience (QoE).


What Problems Does RIC Solve?

The RIC helps mobile operators reduce both infrastructure and operational costs, improve network performance, and increase business agility. It also helps them build new revenue streams with personalized services, network slicing, and indoor location tracking capabilities. The O-RAN Alliance, a global community of mobile network operators, vendors, and research and academic institutions focused on open RAN standards and interoperability, has defined a set of use cases and applications that the RIC supports (see chart).

RIC Use Cases and Key Applications

How Does the RIC Work?

The RIC is divided into non-real-time and near-real-time components. The Non-RT RIC is an element of the operator’s centralized Service Management and Orchestration (SMO) Framework, as defined by the O-RAN Alliance. Using specialized applications called rApps, the Non-RT RIC enables > 1-second control of RAN elements and their resources. It also provides network data, performance metrics, subscriber data, and AI-based recommendations for network optimization and policy guidance to xApps running on the Near-RT RIC, which in turn provides policy feedback to the Non-RT RIC. The Near-RT RIC resides within a telco edge or regional cloud and typically enables network optimization actions that take between 10 milliseconds to one second to complete (see Figure 1).

 

RIC Architecture

RIC Architecture

Figure 1

Juniper RIC Implementation

The RIC platform extends Juniper’s vision for network automation, control, intelligence, and assurance to the radio access network. As a RAN-neutral vendor, Juniper’s approach is to create a RIC platform that enables powerful rApps/xApps from Juniper and third parties, available in an Open RAN “app store,” which help operators create new business models, personalize service experiences, and optimize CapEx and OpEx. Juniper solutions are architected with open interfaces on the northbound and southbound sides for easier integration with partner solutions in the Open RAN ecosystem.

The RIC platform is also central to Juniper’s vision to build an SMO platform that delivers:

  • Multi-cloud orchestration across regional data centers, national data centers, and public clouds
  • Multi-domain orchestration across the RAN and transport and core network domains
  • Multi-tenant orchestration across different mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), enterprises, neutral hosts, and other entities

The Juniper SMO delivers end-to-end network slicing with support for prescribed SLAs across the RAN and transport and core networks (see Figure 2). The Juniper SMO implementation supports the 3GPP-defined Communication Service Management Function (CSMF), Network Slice Management Function (NSMF), and Network Slice Subnet Management Function (NSSMF) standards.

 

Network Slicing and Orchestration Architecture

Network Slicing and Orchestration Architecture

Figure 2

RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) FAQs

What Is a RIC?

A RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) is a software-defined component of the Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) architecture that’s responsible for controlling and optimizing RAN functions.

What Is a Non-Real-time RIC?

The Non-RT RIC is part of the Service Management and Orchestration (SMO) Framework, centrally deployed in the service provider network, which enables non-real-time (> 1 second) control of RAN elements and their resources through specialized applications called rApps. Non-RT RIC communicates with applications called xApps running on a Near-RT RIC to provide policy-based guidance for edge control of RAN elements and their resources.

What Is a Near-Real-Time RIC?

The Near-RT RIC resides within a telco edge cloud or regional cloud and is responsible for intelligent edge control of RAN nodes and resources. The Near-RT RIC controls RAN elements and their resources with optimization actions that typically take 10 milliseconds to one second to complete. It receives policy guidance from the Non-RT RIC and provides policy feedback to the Non-RT RIC through specialized applications called xApps.

What Complementary Technologies Make RIC Possible?

  • Service Management and Orchestration (SMO) framework consolidates orchestration and management functionalities across the entire network.
  • Network slicing enables the on-demand creation of multiple independent end-to-end logical networks that run on a shared physical infrastructure. Each slice is built for a specific communication service and can provide prescribed quality-of-service (QoS) SLAs while remaining securely isolated from other network traffic. A network slice can span multiple parts of the network and run network functions distributed in a multicloud environment. Implementing network slicing requires an SMO capability that consolidates orchestration and management across the entire network.

Why Is a RIC Needed?

The RIC is a cornerstone of the radio access network’s evolution to an open, intelligent, virtualized, and fully interoperable RAN. It allows mobile network operators to get the full benefits of the emerging Open RAN architecture, including innovative use cases for reduced TCO, RAN monetization, improved QoE, and multivendor interoperability.

What RIC Technologies, Solutions, and Products Does Juniper Offer?

Juniper is developing both RIC and SMO solutions.

  • An open and interoperable RIC platform to onboard Juniper and third-party xApps/rApps
  • A multi-cloud, multi-domain, and multi-tenant SMO platform to deliver end-to-end network slicing with prescribed SLAs across the RAN and transport and core networks
  • Juniper rApps and xApps for RAN slice SLA assurance and tenant-aware admission control use cases