More than 30 tech companies yesterday announced the formation of the Open RAN Policy Coalition, a group that will advocate for the development of interoperable components for cell towers.
Members are working to change the way cell tower radio access networks (RANs) work, so that multiple vendors’ open tower radios, hardware, and software can be used interchangeably, rather than requiring proprietary products from one vendor. The group will work to influence governments worldwide.
However, members believe the U.S. 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.” Members say such a process could help new companies enter the RAN market by lowering existing barriers to entry.
The security of the American telecom supply chain was an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic affected industries and economies. U.S. Administration security agencies allege that Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE cooperate with the Chinese government to use their telecommunications gear and software to spy on the U.S. government and citizens. The two companies deny the allegations.
Nevertheless, the FCC and Congress imposed restrictions on both companies relative to their dealings with U.S. companies. The so-called “rip and replace” effort being discussed in Congress and the FCC now would compensate small carriers for re-building new networks without Chinese gear, Inside Towers reported.
“As evidenced by the current global pandemic, vendor choice and flexibility in next-generation network deployments are necessary from a security and performance standpoint,” said Diane Rinaldo, Executive Director, Open RAN Policy Coalition. She was formerly the executive director of the National Telecommunications Information Administration. “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.
Other groups working on the effort are focused on the more technical aspects of such a change. Two examples are the Open Radio Access Network Alliance (O-RAN) which was founded in 2018 and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) founded in 2016 and chaired by Vodafone.
Other examples include the Small Cell Forum. Management and orchestration of these open networks is being developed in the Open Networking Automation 2Platform which is being managed by the Linux Foundation. Another example is Open Radio Equipment Interface which was standardized by European Telecommunications Standards Institute in 2014.
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