Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone Group are joining forces to support the rollout of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) as the technology of choice for future mobile networks. In a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) the four operators expressed their individual commitment to the implementation and deployment of Open RAN solutions.
Open RAN solutions may take advantage of new open virtualized architectures, software and hardware to build more agile and flexible mobile networks in the 5G era.
This initiative by Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone Group 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 introduction of Open RAN, virtualization and automation would enable a fundamental change in the way operators manage networks and deliver services. Telecom operators will be able to add or shift capacity more quickly for end users, automatically resolve network incidents or provide enterprise level services on-demand for industry 4.0.
With Open RAN the industry is working towards standards and technical specifications that define open interfaces within the radio system, including hardware and software, so that networks can be deployed and operated based on mix-and-match components from different suppliers. Telecom operators will be able to draw on the reinvigorated supplier innovation to drive cost efficiencies and more flexibly deliver customized services in response to evolving customer demands.
Role of European Commission
“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,” said Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Vodafone Group. “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. We remain committed to rolling out our Open RAN program across Europe, and we’re taking it even further. We aim to open R&D labs for new, smaller suppliers to develop their products. But to do this we need a supportive investment environment and political backing, and we urge European governments to join us in creating the Open RAN ecosystem.”
The four telecom operators believe that the European Commission and the national governments have an important role to play to foster and develop the Open RAN ecosystem. According to the four telecom operators, the European Commission should fund early deployments, research and development, open test lab facilities and incentivize supply chain diversity. It should lower barriers to entry for small suppliers and startups who can avail of these labs to validate open and interoperable solutions.
Open RAN vs. Traditional RAN
The four operators 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.
“Open RAN is the natural evolution of radio access technologies and it will be key for 5G networks. Telefónica believes the whole industry must work together to make it a reality,” said Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology & Information Officer (CTIO) at Telefónica. “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.”
“Open RAN is about network innovation, flexibility and faster rollout,” said Claudia Nemat, Chief Technology Officer of Deutsche Telekom. “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. Through our open labs and community activities, we facilitate smaller players to enter the market with their solutions. To build on this foundational work, we urge government support and funding for community activities that will strengthen the European ecosystem and leadership in 5G.”
According to these four major telecom providers, the development and implementation of Open RAN is expected to have a positive impact on the European Telecommunication market. In traditional RAN, the networks are deployed using fully integrated cell sites, where the radios, hardware and software are provided by a single supplier as a closed proprietary solution. Mobile operators are today re-evaluating the way their networks are deployed.
“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,” said Michaël Trabbia, Chief Technology & Information Officer (CTIO) at Orange. “This evolution should be supported by a large European ecosystem (academics and research, software and hardware developers, integrators, public funding for R&D) as it is a unique occasion to reinforce the European competitiveness and leadership in the global market.”