Ericsson goes open and joins alliance for virtual radio networks  

05 February 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Ericsson has recognised that the future of mobile lies in virtual networks by joining the O-RAN Alliance, an organisation set up by operators in 2018.

The aims of the alliance, which has 19 operator members and 49 vendors, including Ericsson, are to encourage open standards in radio access networks.

“Our ambition is to actively support and drive discussions and developments around future RAN architectures and open interfaces,” said Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden. “The O-RAN Alliance is an important coalition that creates an arena for these discussions, complementing other standardisation and open-source initiatives in the industry which we are already active in.”

Operators set up the O-RAN Alliance at Mobile World Congress Shanghai in June 2018 “as a network operator-led effort to drive openness and intelligence in the RAN of next-generation wireless systems”.

They agreed to let vendors and other non-service providers join from the end of 2018 and Ericsson’s rivals among the membership already include Ciena, Cisco, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE – but not Huawei.

“Ericsson is a strong supporter of openness in the industry, and the benefits this has on global ecosystems and innovations,” said Ekudden.

The company said that “as a member [it] will focus on the open interworking between RAN and network orchestration and automation, with emphasis on AI-enabled closed-loop automation and end-to-end optimization, to lower operating cost and improve end-user performance”.

Ericsson also recognised the importance of interoperable multivendor profiles for specified interfaces between central RAN functions, eventually allowing operators to choose between different suppliers and not get locked in to one vendor.

The company said its “engagement with the O-RAN Alliance is based on the future needs of mobile network service providers, and how networks must evolve to enable broad range of services with strong focus on quality, performance and security”.

O-RAN’s operations are supported by the Linux Foundation, which also houses the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP).