Montana service provider Triangle Communications is swapping out Huawei gear from its network and implementing open RAN products with vendor Mavenir.
The FCC has made recent moves to implement provisions of the Secure and Trusted Telecommunications Act of 2019 which allocated $1.89 billion, as service providers are required to take out and replace network equipment from vendors deemed security risks – namely China’s Huawei and ZTE.
Late October is the target timeline as to when the filing window for the FCC’s rip and replace reimbursement program opens, but Triangle Communications is already at work to overhaul equipment for its fixed wireless access service. Texas-based Mavenir was chosen for Triangle’s entire network replacement and will act as systems integrator for the project, which qualifies for the FCC funding.
Mavenir SVP John Baker told FierceWireless they believe to be the first supplier awarded a contract related to the rip and replace process.
“This is a complete network swap out, so everything in the entire network from core to RAN [radio access network] and replacing it all with virtualized solutions,” Baker said in an interview.
Mavenir is providing a containerized evolved packet core (vEPC) IMS, open virtualized RAN (Open vRAN) compliant with O-RAN Alliance specifications for open interfaces, and the Mavenir Webscale platform that will enable Triangle to run applications on private, public or hybrid clouds.
It’s deploying the O-RAN Alliance 7.2 open interfaces for the 4G LTE radios. All of the equipment will also be 5G ready. Triangle is using band 12/700 MHz spectrum.
Once Triangle gets equipment that’s virtualized up and running, Mavenir said the operator’s ability to respond to changes and the market should be significantly faster.
Aside from replacing Huawei, it’s notable that the smaller provider is going with open RAN architecture and technology. Triangle, in filings with the FCC, vocalized that it doesn’t see disadvantages in taking an open RAN approach. According to an April filing (PDF), the service provider’s own research “found ORAN equipment to be competitively priced and fully functional compared to legacy vendors’ equipment options which lock you into always using their equipment.”
To that end, the partners have been working hard over the last few months, with the project now underway, Baker said. He acknowledged it will still take some time because of the rural location. Work is initially focused on the core and will move into the RAN later this year or early 2022 – weather permitting, as the snowy season in Montana takes hold.
“This will be the first network that will be deployed using Mavenir designed radios,” Baker said, and the first of several Mavenir-branded commissioned radios the software vendor plans to introduce over the next couple of quarters. Mavenir has done radios before, but it’s the first the vendor commissioned, designed, manufactured, and deployed in the U.S. market and for U.S. frequency bands.
As an open RAN vendor, and vocal champion, Mavenir has been clear on its stance of the need for U.S.-based radio suppliers in a market currently dominated by Ericsson and Nokia as RAN vendors.
With broadband initiatives, such as the massive infrastructure bill was approved by the U.S. Senate this month (including $65 billion for broadband), Baker said the work with Triangle demonstrates mobile technologies are a cost-effective way to deliver FWA solutions. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Mavenir believes strongly that mobile open technologies should be a key candidate for solving rural broadband challenges.
Triangle, which provides voice and internet services, is also deploying fiber across its Montana service area.
About $1.9 billion is allocated under the rip and replace reimbursement program, for wired or wireless network. The FCC in early August reintroduced a new official pricing catalog (PDF) for rip and replace, with information on open RAN technologies.
LightReading reported on the pricing catalog changes that showed some elements for open RAN are cheaper than traditional RAN (such as estimated costs for Open vRAN eNodeB), but that the FCC didn’t go with Mavenir’s request for lower range estimates for the distribution layer Distributed Unit category.
“After a strenuous push at the FCC we got it corrected to reflect that open RAN is 40% cheaper in terms of capex in the catalog,” Baker said, compared to closed solutions. “That’s also a key part of the decision making for guys like Triangle.”