Open RAN is Open for Business

As I’ve followed the conversation in Washington over the last several months about how to advance American leadership in 5G, I’ve been pleased to see such rapidly growing interest in Open RAN, the approach to mobile networking that will widen the supply chain and reduce reliance on untrusted companies that represent threats to our national security.

The Open RAN approach to mobile networking relies on open interfaces and the ability to use network elements from different vendors. It is all inclusive – it does not favor any technology vendor. It finally levels the playing field and opens up to competition what has been a closed market for the last decade.

This fundamental principle has enabled leading U.S. vendors like Mavenir to use cloud-based infrastructure to power next-generation networks – an approach that represents the best chance for innovation and technology to be the foundation of the mobile networks of the future. Though some have suggested that it is not ready to come to market or at a wide scale, this assertion is false.

Open RAN built using cloud-based technology for the radio access network (RAN) is being used in mobile networks now – across the globe – by major mobile carriers to implement and upgrade their 4G service and build out their 5G networks. There are currently 22 publicly announced deals for Open RAN deployment around the world, and new deals are being announced every month. Just this year alone, mobile operators and suppliers have achieved several milestones that make it clear this technology is anything but “pie in the sky.” Here are some of the biggest developments:

  • DISH Network announced that it would use Open RAN in its forthcoming nationwide software-defined 5G network and selected Mavenir to be a prominent provider of Open RAN services for the network.
  • Vodafone Idea, India’s largest telecommunications carrier, expanded its deployment of Mavenir’s Open RAN solutions for 4G, which has been carrying commercial traffic for the network since December 2019.
  • Japan’s Rakuten formally launched its groundbreaking, cloud-native mobile network, which runs on Open RAN technology and, according to the company, “allows for substantial reductions in capital investment and operation costs, enabling the operator to pass on these savings to customers through this simple and affordable service plan.”
  • Indian telecommunications provider Bharti Airtel announced that it had deployed Open RAN solution across multiple major cities in India.
  • US. software-maker VMware and German wireless carrier Deutsche Telekom announced the companies are collaborating on an Open RAN platform running on Intel servers.

In an illustration of the industry’s vast support for and interest in Open RAN, the most prominent names in mobile technology joined together in May to launch the Open RAN Policy Coalition – with Mavenir as a founding board member. The group – which now has more than 52 members, including operators AT&T, Verizon, Dish, Telefonica, Jio, and Rakuten, as well as key industry players such as Intel, Cisco, IBM, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Dell –  advocates for policies that advance open and interoperable solutions in mobile networking as a means to create competition, spur innovation and expand the supply chain for 5G.

There is now strong support for Open RAN both on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission – and a growing recognition that it is the best way to boost competition and innovation in current and next-generation networks and facilitate American alternatives in a widened supply chain.

A few examples of this year’s legislative developments so far:

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s unanimously voted to pass the USA Telecommunications Act, which allocates $750 million to advance Open RAN and accelerate US adoption of trusted and secure networking equipment.
  • The Senate also included language to promote deployment of Open RAN technologies in its FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
  • More than three dozen House lawmakers, led by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), called on House leadership to provide funding to support the development and deployment of Open RAN and vendor diversity in 5G networks.

There’s no question that industry and policymakers alike are going to seek further advancement and deployment of Open RAN. And as they do, Mavenir looks forward to continuing work with all comers to ensure expansion of our supply chain and promotion of innovation as our country reaps the full benefits that 5G mobile networks can offer us.

Medium article by John Baker

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