AT&T, Verizon part of new 31-member Open RAN Policy Coalition

open sign
The coalition's initial focus is educating U.S. federal policymakers on advantages of open RAN, according to Altiostar. (Getty Images)

A new coalition, backed by a wide range of players in the mobile ecosystem, including U.S. operators AT&T and Verizon, has formed to advocate for government policy that helps drive open RAN adoption.

Executive director for the 31-member Open RAN Policy Coalition, launched today, is former Acting Administrator of the NTIA Diane Rinaldo.

“As evidenced by the current global pandemic, vendor choice and flexibility in next-generation network deployments are necessary from a security and performance standpoint," said Rinaldo in a statement. "By promoting policies that standardize and develop open interfaces, we can ensure interoperability and security across different players and potentially lower the barrier to entry for new innovators."

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RELATED: O-RAN aims to eliminate vendor lock-in at the radio access network

Dish Network, which has stated plans to build its forthcoming 5G wireless network based on open RAN architecture, is part of the group. So are international operators that have been early proponents of open RAN efforts, including Telefónica, Vodafone, NTT and Rakuten. Rakuten launched its new fully virtualized 4G network early this year, embracing open interfaces.

Cloud players including Amazon AWS, Google, and Microsoft are in the mix, along with companies Dell, Intel, IBM, VMWare, Samsung, and Qualcomm. 

Joining them are familiar open RAN players like Airspan, Altiostar, Mavenir, NEC, Parallel Wireless, and Cisco, along with CommScope, Fujitsu, Juniper Networks, NewEdge Signal Solutions, Oracle, US Ignite, World Wide Technology, and XCOM-Labs.

T-Mobile is not listed as a member, nor are its biggest vendors Ericsson and Nokia. 

RELATED: Airspan, Altiostar package lessons from Rakuten

Rinaldo in a post outlined some steps the group thinks policymakers can take to facilitate the open RAN ecosystem, including: support global development of open and interoperable wireless technologies; signal government support for open and interoperable solutions; use government procurement to support vendor diversity; and fund research and development.

RELATED: Nokia’s Murphy: Don’t mandate O-RAN for rural carriers

Altiostar Executive SVP Thierry Maupilé noted the global nature of the coalition but said educating U.S. policy makers will be the group’s first focus. Altiostar served on an ad-hoc group made up of several of the coalition’s member companies that informally came together earlier in the year to push for government policies favorable to Open RAN efforts.

“The charter for the Open RAN Policy Coalition is open to advocating with governments and policy makers worldwide, but the initial focus is on US federal policy makers with a goal of educating legislators on the advantages and 5G implications of Open RAN. No specific mandates have been announced as yet, but we are looking at anything that can help to develop and further Open RAN,” Maupilé said via email to Fierce.

The new coalition is meant to complement standards work by the O-RAN Alliance and global deployments driven by Facebook’s Telecom Infra Project (TIP). Facebook is also a founding member of the collective, which TIP endorsed Tuesday.

RELATED: Altiostar deploys open vRAN for India’s Bharti Airtel

“At the heart of TIP’s work is the development and deployment of open, disaggregated, standards-based solutions - that are developed in conjunction with the operators,” said TIP Executive Director Attilio Zani in a statement. “This, together with a supportive policy environment that allows new technology to flourish, will create greater opportunities for new entrants and a more diverse supply chain that will ultimately transform the industry to deliver the high quality connectivity that the world needs - now and in the decades to come.”

RELATED: TIP, O-RAN Alliance reach liaison agreement

Parallel Wireless emphasized that the group’s main goal is to educate, not regulate, and said that advocacy for open RAN is needed because the radio access network “is more complex and closed, there is no opportunity to mix and match unless the interfaces are open.”

Parallel CEO Steve Papa in statement said: “We are excited to see an ecosystem of global mobile operators, hardware and software vendors coming together to drive adoption of openness and interoperability for 4G and 5G networks. At Parallel Wireless, early on we embarked on the OpenRAN mission and are grateful to our 60+ operator partners that have supported and are supporting this movement that is changing the way networks are built and operated to ensure connectivity can be brought to everyone and every business, no matter where they are.”

The new collective believes multi-vendor deployments, in contrast to traditional proprietary single-vendor network architectures, give operators more flexibility and ability to manage their networks, while promoting a more competitive marketplace.

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