MWC21 roundup: Open RAN unfurls with Google, DT deals

Deutsche Telekom open RAN
Claudia Nemat, Deutsche Telekom board member for Technology & Innovation, presented the technology for DT's open RAN initiative. (Deutsche Telekom)

The deals around open Radio Access Network, or open RAN, are fast and furious, as they say, coinciding with Mobile World Congress (MWC21) in Barcelona this week. Here’s a rundown of some of the top items, from Deutsche Telekom’s official opening of its O-RAN town in Germany to Google’s participation in the O-RAN Alliance.

Deutsche Telekom goes to town 

Deutsche Telekom (DT) switched on its O-RAN Town deployment in Neubrandenburg, Germany, on Monday. It’s a multi-vendor open RAN network, with the first 25 sites now deployed and integrated into the live network of DT in Germany.

It includes Europe’s first integration of massive MIMO (mMIMO) radio units using O-RAN open fronthaul interfaces to connect to the virtualized RAN software. Plans call for further expanding the network over time with a “diverse set” of supplier partners, which seems to align with the whole open RAN thrust of diversifying the supplier field.

According to DT, the first live sites at O-RAN Town are built on a “truly multi-vendor open RAN architecture” with equipment from Dell, Fujitsu, Intel, Mavenir, NEC and Supermicro. The remote radio units (O-RU) are provided by Fujitsu and NEC, including Fujitsu’s LTE and 5G NR O-RUs and NEC’s 32T32R 5G massive MIMO radio units (RU), embedded with advanced beamforming technologies.

Mavenir will provide the container-based centralized units (CU) and distributed units (DU) of the disaggregated RAN as a software, including for the mMIMO radio units. The virtualized baseband software is running on standard server hardware provided by Dell and Supermicro. The O-RAN cloud architecture is built on top of the Intel FlexRAN software.

RELATED: Mavenir stokes open RAN, creates radio reference designs

DT expects to expand O-RAN Town in phases across 2021 and 2022, working with different sets of vendors. These solutions are currently being tested in the lab to ensure interoperability.  

DT co-founded the xRAN Forum in 2016, so its history goes back to the early days of the movement, which led to the formation of the O-RAN Alliance in early 2018. The O-RAN Alliance was founded by AT&T, China Mobile, DT, NTT DoCoMo and Orange by combining the C-RAN Alliance and the xRAN Forum.

Fujitsu teams up with TIP

In another open RAN move, Fujitsu Network Communications is collaborating with the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN Project Group to speed the adoption of open RAN infrastructure, so that service providers can get new 5G services to market faster at reduced costs.

The dual-band and tri-band radios are certified by Fujitsu and listed on the TIP Exchange marketplace, allowing service providers to quickly find interoperable solutions and reference designs for 4G and 5G networks.

RELATED: Facebook VP on open RAN, Europe’s lead and tackling the digital divide

“Availability of Open RAN-compliant radios is key to enabling service providers to quickly and efficiently build out tomorrow’s 5G networks,” said Femi Adeyemi, head of the wireless business unit at Fujitsu, in a statement. “As a longstanding proponent of open networking, Fujitsu is committed to helping advance the adoption of Open RAN infrastructure through our innovative O-RAN radio technology.”

In the U.S., Fujitsu is one of the suppliers for Dish Network’s 5G network, which is entirely based on cloud-native open RAN solutions. Dish plans to have its first market, Las Vegas, up later this year, although it remains to be seen how much of the market will be deployed by then.

Google joins the O-RAN Alliance

It might be received with: “What took you so long?,” but Google announced on Monday that it has joined the O-RAN Alliance. On the other hand, it might already seem as though Google has been an indirect member of the alliance, given the amount of software know-how it’s already contributing to the sector.

“We believe that industry-wide open reference architectures and interfaces for RAN are key to driving innovation across communication service provider (CSP) mobile networks—with the O-RAN Alliance driving significant advances in the RAN layer and already gaining traction with a number of large CSPs who have become early adopters of the standard,” wrote Amol Phadke and Ankur Jain in a blog post. “O-RAN specifications will also create conditions for enhanced network security and enable a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem with faster innovation to improve user experience and unlock new CSP operating models.”

When it comes to the evolution of mobile networks, RAN is the most significant building block to reduce total cost of ownership, scale and overall complexity, they pointed out. “Google has a long history of software innovation, and we’re eager to further solidify O-RAN’s journey to achieving truly open cloud software centricity,” they wrote.

Here in the U.S.A.

The Open RAN Solutions showcase that was set for today, June 29, was rescheduled for July 14-15.

RELATED: AT&T, Dish hail open RAN, T-Mobile not so much

The FCC said the change was made to accommodate the large number of interested participants, expanding it to two days. It remains an online event and will include an overview of the various components of an open RAN system, updates from the field and panel discussions featuring vendors.