U.S. sets up new open RAN group amid telecom slugfest with China
Telecom probably didn’t need another open RAN association, but it seems to have gained one anyway. In a low-key announcement, the Open RAN Policy Coalition introduced itself to the world today as the latest group advocating a more open approach to the construction of radio access networks. “Open” meaning no Huawei, of course.
For as the name implies, what really distinguishes this organization from its predecessors is the government’s interest in open RAN as an antidote to China’s 5G poison. That’s not glaringly obvious until you read the part of the press release just above the membership details, where it says: “The US Federal Government has an important role to play in facilitating and fostering an open, diverse and secure supply chain.” And so on.
The identity of the group’s executive director is also a clue. Diane Rinaldo, of course, was until recently the deputy assistant secretary for communications and information at the US Department of Commerce (DoC). Politicians have been skulking around the open RAN movement ever since they figured out that: (a) a few open RAN companies are American; and (b) it’s a potential threat to evildoing Huawei. Now politics looks set to become more firmly embedded in the action.
So will the Open RAN Policy Coalition co-ordinate US efforts and even play a part in assigning funding to US open RAN players? The launch of the new group, interestingly, comes several weeks after a bipartisan group of US senators proposed investing more than $1 billion in open RAN technologies. Under their plans, the funds would come from spectrum auction proceeds and be managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). That’s the bit of the DoC where Rinaldo plied her trade.
At the time of publication, the group had not responded to questions about its precise role and what makes it different from the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and the O-RAN Alliance, the two main groups already in this space. It’s important to note, however, that the published membership list features the names of several non-US companies, including Fujitsu, NEC, NTT, Rakuten (all Japanese), Samsung (South Korean), Telefónica (Spanish) and Vodafone (based in the UK).
Just about all the other members are American, however, and there are plenty of them. They include (deep breath) Airspan, Altiostar, AT&T, AWS, Cisco, CommScope, Dell, Dish, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, Mavenir, Microsoft, NewEdge Signal Solutions, Oracle, Parallel Wireless, Qualcomm, US Ignite, Verizon, VMware, World Wide Technology and XCOM-Labs.
Besides missing any Chinese names, that list also omits any mention of either Ericsson or Nokia, the two European vendors largely responsible for the US 5G projects that are currently underway. Open RAN may seem just as threatening to these companies as it does to Huawei, reducing equipment costs and bringing competition into the radio market (if it works out).
To read the complete article, visit Light Reading.