Open RAN Policy Coalition: U.S. attempt to exclude Chinese 5G network equipment vendors?

Believe it or not, there is now a third Open RAN consortium, joining the ORAN Alliance and TIP OpenRAN. Even more astonishing is that none of the three consortiums have any liaison or co-operation with ITU-R or ITU-T which are standardizing 5G as IMT 2020 radio and non-radio aspects, respectively.  Nor do these consortiums liaise with 3GPP which is the REAL mover and shaker developing 5G specs that are implementable.

Thirty-one global technology companies have launched the Open RAN Policy Coalition to promote policies that will advance the adoption of open and interoperable solutions in the Radio Access Network (RAN) as a means to create innovation, spur competition and expand the supply chain for advanced wireless technologies including 5G.

Open RAN Policy Coalition founding members include Airspan, Altiostar, AT&T, AWS, Cisco, CommScope, Dell, DISH Network, Facebook, Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, Mavenir, Microsoft, NEC Corporation, NewEdge Signal Solutions, NTT, Oracle, Parallel Wireless, Qualcomm, Rakuten Mobile, Samsung Electronics America, Telefónica, US Ignite, Verizon, VMWare, Vodafone, World Wide Technology, and XCOM-Labs.

“Open RAN networks are a significant departure from the traditional industry model and legislators need to know the advantages and how government actions can help accelerating the development and deployment of open and interoperable solutions,” said Thierry Maupilé, Altiostar’s executive vice president, in a statement.

“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 Diane Rinaldo [1.], Executive Director, Open RAN Policy Coalition.  “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.”  Yet that is exactly what the O-RAN Alliance and TIP OpenRAN project were set up to do.

Note 1.  Ms. Rinaldo was until recently the deputy assistant secretary for communications and information at the US Department of Commerce (DoC).

In past generations of mobile networks, the networks were deployed using fully integrated cell sites, where the radios, hardware and software were provided by a single manufacturer as a closed proprietary solution.  Today, the industry is working towards standards and technical specifications that define open interfaces between the radios, hardware and software so that networks can be deployed using more than one vendor.

Multi-vendor deployments enable a more competitive marketplace and give network operators greater ability to manage their networks and flexibility to draw on the innovations of multiple suppliers to upgrade their infrastructure with the latest technology.

Using multiple interoperable suppliers also allows operators to potentially move more quickly to replace or address vulnerable network equipment when reacting to threats, and shift network capacity on demand.

The coalition believes that the U.S. Federal Government has an important role to play in facilitating and fostering an open, diverse and secure supply chain for advanced wireless technologies, including 5G, such as by funding research and development, and testing open and interoperable networks and solutions, and incentivizing supply chain diversity.

Isn’t that a clear indication the coalition has and will continue to exclude Chinese vendors like Huawei and ZTE?

The launch of the new group, interestingly, comes several weeks after a bipartisan group of US senators proposed investing more than $1 billion in open RAN technologies. Under their plans, the funds would come from spectrum auction proceeds and be managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).


Rakuten leads the way forward for Open RANs:

Rakuten Mobile has deployed a version of Open RAN in Japan.  The greenfield virtualized, open RAN build was made available for commercial LTE services in April with plans to move to 5G on the virtualized infrastructure. A number of Rakuten Mobile’s vendors, including NEC, are members of the Open RAN Policy Coalition. Further, Rakuten Mobile has expressed interest in providing its network model to other operators interested in following a similar virtualized OPEN RAN 5G network.

Source: Rakuten.

However, analysts have remained skeptical that Rakuten can challenge Japan’s old guard with a cloud-only mobile network. In a research note published in March, shortly before Rakuten’s launch, Atul Goyal, an analyst with Jefferies, flagged “numerous connectivity issues” when Rakuten introduced its beta service in late 2019. “A poor-quality, low-price network is likely to fail in Japan,” he wrote. Its failure would be a huge setback for open RAN.


Parallel Wireless is on board:

Parallel Wireless CEO Steve Papa told RCR Wireless that the open RAN business model matches the generational shifts in cellular. “The economics of a coverage technology and architecture don’t scale well as a capacity architecture. The entire business models of the incumbent vendors don’t work and don’t map to what the people deploying the equipment require given the economic realities.”

Papa continued to say that open RAN “is exposing this to more innovators to participate, which is good. But more importantly, the U.S. government is waking up to its role in supporting the semiconductor market.” He noted the Made in China 2025 focus on developing semiconductor expertise and other moves he characterized as “a state actor tipping to playing field…Our commercial market in communications infrastructure equipment is being distorted by a state actor. We can let that happen or we can counter it in a similar way.”

“We see this coalition as an important addition to the standards work that O-RAN Alliance is doing and also global deployments driven by TIP,” said Steve Papa, the CEO of Parallel Wireless, in comments emailed to Light Reading.



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

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



7 thoughts on “Open RAN Policy Coalition: U.S. attempt to exclude Chinese 5G network equipment vendors?

  1. Alan, Nice mash up of connected facts. Very interesting stuff!
    Alan G.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Alan. Do you agree with my main take-away: that this new “policy committee” is behind the scenes run by the US government to lock out Chinese telecom equipment vendors, specifically Huawei and ZTE 5G base stations? It seems to be a follow on to “rip and replace” to extract Huawei gear from rural U.S. wireless networks.

      Also, these Open RAN consortiums create their own defacto “standards” without any liaisons to ITU, ETSI, 3GPP, etc! This seems to be the new world of telecom???

  2. Agree with Alan, about your insight regarding the political implications of this development. That said, several of the new policy committee members (Google, Microsoft, Commscope) are spectrum database administrators. An open approach, whereby spectrum is allocated on more of a dynamic basis, as is starting to be done with CBRS and will soon extend to WiFi 6E (IEEE 802.11ax), is consistent with a disaggregated network approach.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  3. To me this is a lobbying group. Keeping Huawei and ZTE out from US markets is quite well digested in the US government already but ORAN is not. By themselves these small companies like Altiostar, Parallell Wireless, etc. don’t have lobbying power. With this consortium they have. No doubt they are also now in a position to make donations to politicians in key positions that move the needle to increase government support for ORAN. For example huge sums of government money are being handed out to businesses due to Covid-19 and these guys would also like to be at the receiving end.

    1. Very good point Keke, especially about small players having more influence as part of this new ORAN policy committee. However, it can not be a “lobbying group” if it is headed and controlled by the US government. Lobby groups are financed by large corporations to influence Congress or government agencies.

      From a financial blog post I co-authored this weekend:

      … politicians are greatly influenced by their large corporate constituents.

      Congressional offices pay a lot of attention to what big business groups are saying — especially when those groups give them money. Well over half of GOP staffers said that input from business groups was “very or extremely important” in shaping the policy advice they gave their bosses, a study published in the American Political Science Review found. Over a quarter of Democratic staffers said the same thing.

      The U.S. Congress in total earns an estimated $93 million dollars ($174,000 average salary x 535 members =93,090,000). Compare that to telecom – media giant AT&T, which had gross revenues of $181.2 Billion last year and an army of political lobbyists. In 2019, AT&T spent $4,437,353 on political contributions and $12,820,000 on lobbying, according to Open Secrets. 77 out of 98 (~79%) AT&T lobbyists previously held government jobs.

      Indeed, Federal lobbying spending soared to nearly $903 million during the first three months of the year — approaching record levels. If this pattern holds, lobbying during the first quarter of 2020 will top the previous first-quarter record of $926 million set in 2010 when Congress finalized the Affordable Care Act, overhauling the nation’s health care system. It clearly shows that large U.S. corporations are trying to shape how Congress and the Trump administration respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

      The lobbying surge “relates to every industry and company in the country fighting for their lives and Washington turning on the spigot with almost unlimited money,” said Dan Auble, a senior researcher at the center. “Everyone is getting in on this lobbying boom,” he added.

  4. May 9, 2020 Update: Communications Service Providers (CSPs) losing out on 5G enterprise business:

    “Only one in five early enterprise 5G deals are CSP-led, proving that the way CSPs want to sell is at odds with the way in which businesses want to buy,” said Angus Ward, CEO of BearingPoint//Beyond. “What’s deeply concerning is that some of these early deals, such as the ones we see in automotive, cut out CSPs entirely – even connectivity is being provided by other suppliers.

    “Businesses want to buy complete solutions that fit their needs and help them solve business problems, rather than individual technology assets. This is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity that CSPs need to address fast and requires CSPs to collaborate with enterprises and SMBs to better understand their reality.”

    “CSPs will only realize value from 5G if they can identify, partner, codevelop, implement, and run a proposition with application-specific and industry-specific specialists,” said Evan Kirchheimer, Research VP, Service Provider & Communications at Omdia. “CSPs that can orchestrate such a complex web of relationships will be capable of capturing a greater share of the market and will not be relegated to being one of many connectivity providers competing solely on price.”

    That’s the thing they seem to be especially rubbish at. Even now operators are selling on features and benefits rather than solutions, even though the rest of the world got that memo a decade or two ago. The report urges them to focus on applications and vertical-specific solutions rather than just banging on about how great 5G is.

    According to Omdia almost 80% of early enterprise 5G deals involve the manufacturing, transport, utilities and energy/mining sectors, so that seems to be where the smart money is. Furthermore the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be making industry keener than ever to digitise and automate, presumably to minimise disruption when none of their employees are allowed to leave the house. As ever a culture change at CSPs is required, which they’ve shown little historical inclination towards.

  5. John Strand of Strand Consult: The reality check on OpenRAN

    In 2020 OpenRAN was portrayed as a miracle “technology”. Many believe OpenRAN will increase innovation, reduce operators’ costs, and help rid Chinese equipment in telecommunications networks. Other OpenRAN boosters want more nations to become manufactures of telecommunications infrastructure.

    2021 will bring a needed reality check. It will take years before OpenRAN can replace regular RAN on a 1:1 basis. Promised savings for operators will not be so great, and the purported openness of the solution will not necessarily deliver security, at least in the expectation of OpenRAN reducing reliance on Chinese vendors. China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom are among some 44 Chinese government technology companies in the O-RAN Alliance. Other members are ZTE and Inspur, which the US bans because of links to the Chinese military. While purporting to offer the way out from Huawei, O-RAN appears to substitute one Chinese government owned firm for another, like Lenovo. OpenRAN specifications may already violate cybersecurity rules in UK, Germany and France. Patent challenges are also likely as OpenRAN is 100% dependent on 3GPP and the patents of non-members of the O-RAN Alliance.

    Strand Consult believes that industrial cooperation is important for technological development, investment, and innovation. Some of this cooperation is done in 3GPP, the O-RAN Alliance, and other organizations. Mobile operators should be free to choose the technological solutions that make sense for their business, provided the adherence to national security laws. OpenRAN should not be the justification for protectionism.

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