Telcos unite urging Europe to act on Open RAN
Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia (TIM), Telefónica and Vodafone have submitted five recommendations to the European Union (EU) to build an Open RAN ecosystem in Europe.
Commissioned by the five telcos and based on findings from analyst firm, Analysys Mason, the new report entitled ‘Building an Open RAN ecosystem for Europe’, calls on policymakers, EU Member States, and industry stakeholders to collaborate and prioritise the development of Open RAN.
“Decisive action is needed now to ensure Europe maintains its competitiveness in the development of the next generation networks," said Claudia Nemat, chief technology & innovation officer of Deutsche Telekom.
"Especially in North America and Asia there is strong backing for Open RAN. Europe should not fall behind but seek a leading position in the new Open RAN ecosystem. It will help accelerate network innovation, faster rollouts and service creation for our customers.”
According all parties, open, intelligent, virtualised and fully interoperable RAN is key if Europe is to meet its target of 5G for all by 2030. Open RAN will help drive stronger, more resilient supply chains and platforms, as well as promote digital autonomy and continued technology leadership.
“Open RAN technology will play a fundamental role in the networks of tomorrow, enabling them to be built and managed more efficiently and cost effectively," said Michaël Trabbia, chief technology and information officer of Orange.
"If Europe is to build the next generation of digital networks that will power its economic success then we must do more to support the ecosystem in Europe which is delivering this technology. Now is the time to collaborate altogether and secure Europe’s future at the forefront of digital innovation.”
Specifically, Open RAN will give operators the flexibility to extend 5G to more users in a cost-effective, secure and energy efficient way, which in turn will drive greater innovation across industries.
“Open RAN is the natural evolution of radio access technologies and it will be key for 5G networks," said Enrique Blanco, chief technology & information officer at Telefónica.
"Telefónica believes the development of a healthy Open RAN ecosystem is essential to meet our target of 5G in the coming years. Including Open RAN as a pillar in the European Industry Policy will have a positive impact on the development of 5G in the region, enhancing the flexibility, efficiency and security of our networks while promoting its sustainable technological development.”
The report shows that at present Europe has only 13 major Open RAN players, versus 57 for the rest of the world. It notes that many European players are at the early stage of Open RAN development and have not yet secured commercial Open RAN contracts, while vendors from other regions are moving ahead.
“The creation of a European Open RAN ecosystem represents a unique opportunity to be competitive," said Nicola Grassi, chief technology & operations officer at TIM.
"We are convinced that the development of a lively Open RAN ecosystem will boost innovation and act as an important test bench not only for the telco industry but also for the process of digital transformation at EU level. This is why we confirm our commitment to contribute significantly to the development and deployment of these solutions.”
In addition, European vendors are not present in all six major technology and service categories that make up the Open RAN value chain and where they do have a presence, they are outnumbered by non-European players.
“Policy in the US and Japan, among other countries, already strongly backs Open RAN. The US has earmarked more than $1.5 billion to fund Open RAN, and Japan offers financial incentives and tax benefits for companies which develop, supply, and deploy related equipment," said Caroline Gabriel, research director at Analysys Mason.
"While there are some positive examples at national level, for example Germany, today, the European Union as a whole is falling woefully short of providing the necessary support for Open RAN, putting at risk the future viability of a European ecosystem able to compete with other regions in the world.”
The report sets out five policy recommendations that can bridge the gap with other international regions. These include:
Ensuring high-level political support for Open RAN. Europe needs to talk with a common voice and identify Open RAN as a strategic priority.
The European Commission creating a European Alliance on Next Generation Communication infrastructures and a roadmap for innovation as it has done for Cloud and Semiconductors.
Policymakers providing funding and tax incentives to operators, vendors and start-ups to support the development of European solutions along the entire Open RAN value chain, based on public-private partnerships, testbeds and open labs.
European leadership in standardisation. Globally harmonised standards ensure openness and interoperability.
Working with international partners to promote a secure, diverse, and sustainable digital and ICT supply chain.
“Open RAN will allow more European vendors to enter the ecosystem, accelerating innovation and stimulating competition," said Johan Wibergh, chief technology officer of Vodafone.
"This will benefit the European economy and the quality of connectivity services. The reality is that Open RAN is coming, whether Europe embraces a leadership position or not. Waiting will only widen the technology leadership gap, at a time when achieving competitiveness and resilience is key to Europe’s future success.”
The report concludes that Europe needs to include Open RAN as a pillar in its Industrial Policy and Digital Compass Strategy and support it with the right policy framework.