Operators’ quest for open networks takes another turn this week as Telefónica and Vodafone each are issuing a Request for Information (RFI) for OpenRAN solutions.
The moves come as part of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), of which both Telefónica and Vodafone are members. TIP launched its OpenRAN Project Group in 2017 with the aim of developing fully programmable RAN solutions based on General Purpose Processing Platforms (GPPP) and disaggregated software.
The RFIs will identify vendors of Radio Access Network equipment and assess their ability to meet requirements for RAN platforms as established by TIP's OpenRAN project group. The intention is to extend operators’ 4G network coverage, but 2G and 3G technologies also are included in the RFIs.
The RFIs will allow Vodafone and Telefónica to evaluate solutions that are aligned with the OpenRAN principles. Vendors are invited to submit information related to solutions both current or in development that meet specifications outlined in the RFIs.
"This is a significant milestone for TIP as well as the entire industry,” Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone's group head of networks strategy and architecture and a TIP board member, said in a press release. “We arrived at this point through strong industry collaboration via the TIP community, especially in the OpenRAN project group. … We truly expect this will help align the different open initiatives we have seen flourishing recently."
Telefónica's I+D CEO and TIP board member David Del Val said the carrier is committed to the deployment of OpenRAN. “This RFI is a clear step towards commercialization of these new solutions that will simplify cellular networks deployment and operations, and unleash innovation for a better service to our customers,” he said in the release.
The results of the RFI process will be presented at the TIP Summit 2018 in London on Oct. 16-17, when they will identify vendors that meet RFI requirements.
Facebook launched TIP back in 2016, and its members include Deutsche Telekom, Orange, China Unicom and a host of others, including Sprint, which is its first, and so far only, U.S. operator to join in that effort.
Other initiatives involving open RAN include the ORAN Alliance, which was announced earlier this year as the result of the xRAN Forum and C-RAN Alliance merging to form one worldwide entity. At last check, that merger was still being finalized.
In April, the xRAN Forum announced the availability of a fronthaul specification that effectively enables an operator to buy a remote radio unit (RRU) from one vendor and a baseband unit (BBU) from another and they'll work together, opening it up to more competition. Some called that milestone an attempt to bust up the old "cartel" of RRU/BBU suppliers.