Giants with 1.4bn customers throw weight behind open RAN

Giant four with 1.4bn customers throw weight behind open RAN

20 January 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Four European telecoms giants are joining forces to promote the roll-out of open-source mobile technology.

The four are Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone, which between them have 1.4 billion customers.

This is the biggest move to open radio access networks (O-RAN or open RAN) yet, and is likely to push the biggest vendors — Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia — to accelerate their moves into the market.

Claudia Nemat (pictured), CTO of Deutsche Telekom, said: “Deutsche Telekom is committed to its promotion, development and adoption to ensure the best network experience for our customers. To seize this opportunity, it is critical that we join forces with our leading European partners to foster a diverse, competitive and secure 4G/5G ecosystem based on open RAN solutions.”

Telefónica CTIO Enrique Blanco said: “Open RAN is the natural evolution of radio access technologies and it will be key for 5G networks.”

His opposite number at Orange, Michaël Trabbia, said: “Open RAN is the next major evolution of 5G RAN. Orange believes it is a strong opportunity for existing and emerging European actors to develop O-RAN based products and services, starting with indoor and rural areas.”

They were joined by Johan Wibergh, Vodafone’s group CTO for the past almost six years but before that head of Ericsson’s networks business unit. “Open RAN has the power to stimulate European tech innovation using the expertise of the companies that develop it and the governments who support it. Opening up the market to new suppliers, with our ambition and government advocacy, will mean faster 5G deployment, cost-saving network efficiencies and world-class services.”

Only last week a number of executives and industry experts told a UK parliamentary committee that open RAN is several years off — but this is a collaboration that could speed up the development.

The four groups signed a memorandum of understanding expressing their individual commitment to the implementation and deployment of open RAN solutions that take advantage of new open virtualised architectures, software and hardware to build more agile and flexible mobile networks in the 5G era.

The four operators said they “will work together with existing and new ecosystem partners, industry bodies like the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), as well as European policy makers, to ensure Open RAN quickly reaches competitive parity with traditional RAN solutions”.

They said: “This initiative is an important milestone towards a diverse, reinvigorated supplier ecosystem and the availability of carrier-grade open RAN technology for a timely commercial deployment in Europe.”

The four operators said they believe that the European Commission and national governments “have an important role to play to foster and develop the open RAN ecosystem by funding early deployments, research and development, open test lab facilities and incentivising supply chain diversity by lowering barriers to entry for small suppliers and startups who can avail of these labs to validate open and interoperable solutions”.

Blanco said: “Telefónica believes the whole industry must work together to make it a reality. I am excited to be partnering with major European operators to promote the development of an open technology that will help to enhance the flexibility, efficiency and security of our networks. This is an extraordinary opportunity for the European industry not only to promote the development of 5G but also to participate in its sustainable technological development.”