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Global partnership to boost Open RAN

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty


The UK, US, Australia and Canada are looking to drive the development of the Open RAN specification for 5G and 6G networks.

The governments are pushing for more standardisation and less fragmentation as well as boosting its research and development

“The United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are committed to ensuring the security and resilience of our telecommunications networks, including by fostering a diverse supply chain and influencing the development of future telecommunications technologies such as 6G,” they said in a joint statement.

“Collectively, we recognise that open and interoperable architectures are one way of creating a more open, diverse and innovative market.”

This follows the Prague Proposals on Telecommunications Supplier Diversity agreed last year that includes support for Open RAN for interoperable networks, public-private dialogue and global partnership.

This also follows security concerns over equipment from certain Chinese suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE that is now being removed from networks in all four countries.

The US is also backing OpenRAN with $1.5bn as part of the CHIPS Act for semiconductor and supply chain funding, as eeNews Europe highlighted back in July. It is now looking to consult on the planned investments for the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund.

This funding will be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the US signatory which has started a public consultation that runs to January 23rd on the proposals.

“Operators and vendors are already deploying Open RAN equipment across the States, and this investment will incentivise wider scale deployments. Open RAN gives carriers more choice, innovation opportunities and improved economics, and will be vital for rural operators as they look to close the digital divide,” said Kristian Toivo, executive director, Telecom Infra Project.

“This funding helps tackle one of the hurdles of ripping out and replacing equipment. The next step is to provide MNOs with blueprints for how Open RAN can be deployed in different scenarios and use cases, to ensure that effective investments are made. TIP is already seeing significant demand and encouraging signs of collaboration within the industry to support MNOs across regions to realise the benefits of Open RAN.”

Open RAN fragmentation

The governments also plan to coordinate research and development and boost R&D partnerships. A key concern is fragmentation and ‘islands of interoperability’ between certain vendors or nations, rather than a truly open ecosystem.

“We encourage industry to avoid fragmentation of the nascent market by focusing on the smallest possible number of options for disaggregation which still allows the neutral implementation of secure and performant networks,” said the statement

This suggests a focus on developing the necessary number of specifications, splits, standards and standards bodies to promote interoperability and security, without unduly limiting market-based innovation. This should have the dual benefits of accelerating progress and reducing complexity for entrants, as set out in the Prague Proposals.

This extends to proactively negating fragmentation at the system level – avoiding so-called ‘islands of interoperability’ only between partnered vendors, systems integrators and hardware suppliers – to ensure genuine Open RAN.

The key is sharing information on the respective policy approaches to telecommunications supplier diversity and encourage information sharing among testing and research facilities, such as the UK’s SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC), UK Telecommunications Lab, Australia’s coming ‘Secure-G’ Connectivity Lab and the Communications Research and Innovation Network of the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences.

“We have a shared view that open and interoperable architectures should be secure. Security should be a core consideration throughout the entire lifecycle of relevant components and systems, including in the design, development, deployment, operation and decommissioning stages,” said the statement.

“We intend to proactively address any concerns while these architectures develop. Sufficient vendor participation, transparency and openness in Open RAN standards developing entities could enable security researchers to identify and address potential issues rapidly as they arise.”

www.ntia.doc.gov; telecominfraproject.com/openran/


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