Open RAN group ties COVID-19 pandemic to RAN vendor choice, security and performance
A new group of operators and telecom network hardware and software vendors announced today the formation of the Open RAN Policy Coalition. As 5G deployments continue around the world, open RAN has gained momentum based on selling points, including breaking vendor lock-in, letting operators mix-and-match components, reducing TCO and increasing performance.
Groups like the O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project work on technical details of equipment interoperability and cooperative trial activity. As the name implies, the Open RAN Policy Coalition exists “to promote policies that will advance the adoption of open and interoperable solutions in the [RAN] as a means to create innovation, spur competition and expand the supply chain for advanced wireless technologies including 5G.”
The telecom supply chain has certainly come into focus as the COVID-19 pandemic hits economies and industries around the globe, but it was a prominent issue pre-coronavirus, particularly the relationship between U.S. and allied companies and Chinese ICT powerhouse Huawei. U.S. lawmakers have imposed numerous business restrictions on Huawei and have pressured friendly governments to exclude the vendor from 5G builds on allegations of cooperation with the Chinese government.
In a statement, Open RAN Policy Coalition Executive Director Diane Rinaldo said, “As evidenced by the current global pandemic, vendor choice and flexibility in next-generation network deployments are necessary from a security and performance standpoint. By promoting policies that standardize and develop open interfaces, we can ensure interoperability and security across different players and potentially lower the barrier to entry for new innovators.”
The founding companies are: Airspan, Altiostar, AWS, AT&T, Cisco, CommScope, Dell, DISH Network, Facebook, Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, Mavenir, Microsoft, NEC Corporation, NewEdge Signal Solutions, NTT, Oracle, Parallel Wireless, Qualcomm, Rakuten, Samsung Electronics America, Telefónica, US Ignite, Verizon, VMWare, Vodafone, World Wide Technology, and XCOM-Labs.
Rakuten Mobile is the go-to proof point for open RAN; the greenfield virtualized, open RAN build was made available for commercial LTE services in April with plans to move to 5G on the virtualized infrastructure. A number of Rakuten Mobile’s vendors comprise the Open RAN Policy Coalition membership. Further, Rakuten Mobile has expressed interest in providing its network model to other operators interested in following a similar course.
Back to the U.S./Huawei issue, federal governments are funding a rip-and-replace of Huawei equipment used in domestic networks operated by smaller, rural and regional carriers. An offshoot of that is ongoing discussion around fostering U.S. telecom infrastructure expertise to curb reliance on foreign suppliers.
From the coalition’s website, “The coalition believes that the U.S. federal government has an important role to play in facilitating and fostering an open, diverse and secure supply chain for advanced wireless technologies, including 5G, such as by funding research and development, and testing open and interoperable networks and solutions, and incentivizing supply chain diversity.”
Parallel Wireless is a major provider in this space and a coalition member. In an interview with RCR Wireless News, CEO Steve Papa touched on the notion of openness as it relates to RAN and also how geopolitical machinations and history should inform lawmakers’ current postures toward fostering a U.S. telecom ecosystem.
He said the open RAN business model matches the generational shifts in cellular. “The economics of a coverage technology and architecture don’t scale well as a capacity architecture. The entire business models of the incumbent vendors don’t work and don’t map to what the people deploying the equipment require given the economic realities.”
Papa continued to say that open RAN “is exposing this to more innovators to participate, which is good. But more importantly, the U.S. government is waking up to its role in supporting the semiconductor market.” He noted the Made in China 2025 focus on developing semiconductor expertise and other moves he characterized as “a state actor tipping to playing field…Our commercial market in communications infrastructure equipment is being distorted by a state actor. We can let that happen or we can counter it in a similar way.”
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