FCC’s Open RAN forum goes virtual

The FCC notes that open RAN offers an alternative to traditional cellular network architecture and could enable a diversity in suppliers, better network security and lower costs. (Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the FCC from holding its Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks in March, but the show will go on, virtually.

The FCC announced the forum will take place by videoconference and online on Monday, September 14. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will host representatives from a number of companies and organizations to explore the development of open, interoperable, standards-based, virtualized radio access networks for 5G.

The FCC notes that open RAN offers an alternative to traditional cellular network architecture and could enable diversity in suppliers, better network security and lower costs. That’s key considering the Trump administration’s emphasis on U.S.-based 5G network suppliers instead of China’s Huawei.

“Open and virtualized radio access networks may help operators deploy more secure, cost-effective 5G networks,” Pai said in a statement. “As part of the FCC’s 5G FAST Plan, the agency has taken many actions to promote American leadership in next generation wireless services. To that end, we want the United States to lead the way in researching and developing innovative approaches to mobile network deployment. I am pleased the FCC will convene these experts for a productive discussion about the current state of ORAN-related technologies and the path ahead.”

Pai is scheduled to deliver welcome remarks along with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who in June named various operators around the globe that he considers “Clean Telcos.” Pai will also moderate a session on virtualized networks that includes Tareq Amin of Rakuten, Caroline Chan of Intel, Sachin Katti of VMware and Thierry Maupilé of Altiostar.

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Another panel will feature Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon, GlobalFoundries’ Peter Gammel, Open RAN Policy Coalition Executive Director Diane Rinaldo, Dell CTO John Roese, CableLabs Chief Research and Development Officer Mariam Sorond and Soma Velayutham of NVIDIA.

In a “Lessons from the Field” session, participants include Stephen Bye of Dish Network, Craig Farrell of IBM, Marcus Weldon of Nokia, John Baker of Mavenir, Kaitki Agarwal of Parallel Wireless, Marie-Paule Odini of HPE and Mathew Oommen of Jio.

For a “Technical Deep Dive” session, the FCC has invited representatives from Blue Danube, MITRE, Oracle, Johns Hopkins University, Northeastern University, Spirent, Rutgers University and the University of Utah.  

Before the COVID-19 pandemic closed FCC headquarters, the FCC and White House had planned a Forum on 5G Virtualized Radio Access Networks on March 26 and a 5G Summit at the White House on April 1. Most of the companies that were scheduled to participate in the March forum are making an appearance at the September event.