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Operators, Tech Companies Form Open RAN Lobby Group

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A group of 31 big name operators and technology companies sought to bolster technical work on open RAN by teaming to promote government programmes favouring research and adoption of the approach.

The Open RAN Policy Coalition includes AT&T, Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Rakuten Mobile, Samsung Electronics America, Telefonica, Verizon and Vodafone, among others.

However, traditional equipment vendors including Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei were noticeably not on the membership list.

Diane Rinaldo was appointed executive director.  She previously headed the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a role which involved advising President Donald Trump’s administration.

In a statement, Rinaldo explained the coalition aims to “ensure interoperability and security across different players and potentially lower the barrier to entry for new innovators”, by advocating for policies which advance the development and standardisation of open interfaces.

She added in a blog the goal is to offer policy-focused backing to other open RAN groups (for instance, the O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project) which are working on technical standards.

US focus

Though it will work to influence governments across the globe, the Open RAN Policy Coalition pointed to the US as a key focus, stating the country “has an important role to play” in advancing development of an open supply chain for 5G technologies.

US officials could be the most receptive to the group’s efforts, with the government recently exploring open RAN as a way to reduce reliance on kit from Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE.

The group noted the government might fund research, development and testing of networks, and incentivise supply chain diversity.

IBM detailed potential steps in a blog, pressing the NTIA to help raise awareness of open 5G technologies, and calling on the US Department of Defence to use its equipment procurement processes to give preferred consideration to open architectures.

It added the government could also accelerate open 5G R&D and deployment efforts through grants, tax credits and interest-free loans.

Vodafone identified other global targets in a separate, related, statement, with external affairs director Joakim Reiter encouraging authorities in Europe to include open RAN as part of their future industrial strategies, and back research, pilots and deployments. He added the technology should also be a priority for international institutions aiming to bridge the digital divide in Africa. –Mobile World Live

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