[White Paper] – Security Benefits of Open Virtualized RAN

A 451 Research Pathfinder paper: As operators expand radio networks with upgrades and new buildouts, open architectures offer clear benefits regarding flexibility and agility. Avoiding vendor lock-in and the ability to build best-of-breed capabilities are very valuable, but many overlook a key benefit that comes along with standardized interfaces and greater visibility – improved security. Two important factors can drive improved security: improved modularity and reduced interdependencies. With open interfaces available deeper within radio access network (RAN) infrastructure, there are options for isolating controls, greater observability and independently generated operational telemetry. Those interfaces provide modularity, which can allow more granular security attestation. It can reduce dependencies on unique software capabilities, making it less risky to update software to apply fixes. Avoiding single vendor lock-in allows operators to put best-of-breed security capabilities to work more easily. These can strengthen operators’ control over their security posture at a time when threats on the network are expanding rapidly. Open architectures offer many benefits that are just starting to be realized.

Key Findings

  • Open approaches to building RAN infrastructure can increase security and lower risk.
  • The threat landscape for operators is expanding dramatically, and stronger mitigations and controls need to be in place to address these risks.
  • Supply chain flexibility can increase reliability by expanding options.
  • Operators can better control their own security posture through direct ownership of security processes.
  • Creating modularity within the RAN enables CI/CD processes, speeding software updates.
  • 5G offers some security enhancements, but 4G security improvements are needed today, and open deployments can speed their introduction.
  • Virtualization offers additional security telemetry and control for RAN functions.