O-RAN Alliance, Telecom Infra Project (TIP) & OCP Telco may open up telecom equipment market to new entrants

“There was more choice of network equipment suppliers 15 years ago than there is now and the industry is keen on expanding that vendor ecosystem,” Vodafone Group PLC’s Head of Network Strategy and Architecture, Santiago Tenorio, told Dow Jones Newswires.

For sure, the telecom industry would like to have more network equipment vendors to diversify supply chains, reducing risk and lowering costs.  Network operators are pushing for change in the telecom-equipment market. Two international alliances of tech and telecom companies, universities and research centers are trying to develop networks that source gear from multiple vendors, which could attract new players to the market.

“Everybody wants it to happen,” said Janardan Menon, technology analyst at brokerage Liberum Capital. Mr. Menon expects progress to be slow but steady, and cautioned that it could take years before these open-architecture networks become a reality.

The O-RAN Alliance–which counts U.S. cell carriers Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and Sprint Corp. as well as China Mobile Ltd. and Japan’s SoftBank Corp. among its members–is creating an ecosystem of new products that will support multi-vendor, interoperable radio-access networks. Meanwhile, the Telecom Infra Project, whose members include Facebook Inc. and Vodafone among others, is working on similar projects. Tech giants such as Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. are backing both groups.

Nokia is also a member of both the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project OpenRAN group. Ericsson has engaged with the O-RAN Alliance, which the Swedish company sees as aligning closer to its goals, but not with the Telecom Infra Project.

“Ericsson is actively contributing towards O-RAN specifications to make it a viable alternative in the future,” an Ericsson spokesperson said. Nokia and Huawei didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) in February agreed to collaborate on 5G radio-access networks. They reached a liaison deal that allows for sharing information, referencing specifications and conducting joint testing.

Although some 4G projects using these open-architecture are already in operation, the technology isn’t yet ready to be deployed at scale. Facebook and Telefonica have launched a telecom-infrastructure company in Peru called Internet para Todos, which relies on so-called open radio-access network, or OpenRAN. Meanwhile, Vodafone is testing OpenRAN in rural parts of the U.K., following trials in South Africa and Turkey.

OpenRAN is ready to be deployed commercially in pockets of the network, but not at scale throughout a market yet,” Mr. Tenorio said. “None of the smaller providers which OpenRAN is bringing into the market are ready yet to compete at scale with the likes of Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei,” he added.

The development of open-architecture networks began before Huawei’s blacklisting problems. The Telecom Infra Project was launched four years ago, and the O-RAN Alliance was formed in 2018 through the combination of two projects with shared goals.

There is no major U.S. manufacturer of cellular equipment currently, even though the U.S. is the biggest market in the industry for telecom equipment. The rise of open-architecture networks could create opportunities for smaller companies like Parallel Wireless, Mavenir or Altiostar, all of them based in the U.S., to have a say in the future of telecom networks.

It is unlikely that these new entrants take revenue from Huawei, Ericsson or Nokia in the next few years, said Liberum’s Mr. Menon. However, as the market begins to perceive that there are alternatives to the trio, their valuations could be hit, Mr. Menon said.

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Telco is an important open hardware project within the Open Compute Project (OCP):

There is an industry desire to apply open hardware OCP model to the creation of open telecom optimized hardware.  The OCP Telco Project enlists participants from telecom companies and carriers as well as sub systems, software, board and semiconductor suppliers who are seeking to use data center infrastructure to deliver IT services.

As technologists across industries participate in this community, OCP is creating and refining more designs, making it possible for more companies to transition from their old,existing  proprietary solutions to Open Compute Project (OCP) solutions gear. and interoperable, multi-vendor supplier support.

The openEDGE Sub-Project is under the direction of the OCP Telco Project Group.

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References:

TIP OpenRAN and O-RAN Alliance liaison and collaboration for Open Radio Access Networks

https://www.o-ran.org/

https://telecominfraproject.com/

https://www.opencompute.org/projects/telco

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/02/12/nec-and-mavenir-collaborate-to-deliver-5g-open-vran-platform/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/04/03/o-ran-alliance-and-linux-foundation-form-o-ran-open-source-community-open-networking-assessment/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/09/18/ntt-docomo-achieves-multi-vendor-4g-5g-ran-using-o-ran-specifications/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/02/05/u-s-government-tech-companies-to-create-software-standards-for-5g-telecommunications-networks/

One thought on “O-RAN Alliance, Telecom Infra Project (TIP) & OCP Telco may open up telecom equipment market to new entrants

  1. Indosat is working with the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and the GSMA to perform OpenRAN trials
    Indonesian operator Indosat Ooredoo has announced that it is ready to trial OpenRAN tech later this month. These trials would mark the first of their kind in Asia.

    Indosat is working closely with TIP and GSMA on the project, which ultimately aiming to reduce costs and boost the country’s digital growth.

    As part of the project, Indosat has agreed to help create the first TIP Community Lab in Southeast Asia, which will be open for use by all national operators, as well as TIP members, to test and validate the projects services.

    “Operators in Indonesia are taking a lead in driving digital transformation[…] This is also an important move for the APAC region and promises to be a reference for other operators to explore network technology innovation for increased diversity, security and flexibility in their supply chain,” said Julian Gorman, head of Asia Pacific for GSMA.

    OpenRAN is picking up steam around the world, as operators increasingly question their reliance on traditional vendor tech. The cost savings of OpenRAN are, of course, the main driving factor, but the flexibility of its interchangeable components also mean it will be much easier to customise the networks to meet consumers’ needs. With the advent of 5G on the horizon, this will be especially important for the various new enterprises that are beginning to emerge.

    “I think that flexibility is going to have a significant impact not only on direct to consumer but also enterprise offerings that operators have as well,” commented Attilio Zani, the executive director of TIP.

    In South America, Parallel Wireless has been helping Internet para Todos to deploy hudrends of OpenRAN 4G sites throughout Peru, while the US is positioning OpenRAN as the only alternative to the 5G dominance of Huawei.

    Meanwhile, in Europe, Vodafone and O2 are both testing OpenRAN solutions, with commercial deployment expected in around two years.

    More recently, in Asia itself, newcomer Rakuten is singing the praises of OpenRAN and is expected to crash onto the Japanese scene in some style with an aggressive pricing strategy next month.

    OpenRAN may well be in its infancy, but it is increasingly becoming a global phenomenon.

    https://www.totaltele.com/505169/OpenRAN-is-coming-to-Asia

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