Progress in 5G private networks and Open RAN
Harry Baldock of Total Telecom writes, “The month of November was one of quiet progress for 5G, with more momentum steadily being gained for long-term trends towards private network deployments and open RAN innovation.”
Private 5G networks could be viable connectivity options for major industries like manufacturing and shipping, giving them not only access to the latest technologies to enhance efficiency, but also the flexibility to structure their network however they please.
In Europe, the German telecom regulator announced in November that it has awarded 88 licences for private 5G networks this year and expects more to come. For example, Nokia recently installed a private 5G network in Nuremburg for industrial IoT specialist MYNXG. In France, electronics manufacturer Lacroix is working with with Orange and Ericsson to create a 5G factory, and in the UK BT is installing a 5G network into Belfast Harbour, while Huawei is creating a private 5G testbed in Cambridge.
There has also been significant movement in the U.S., with General Motor’s new Factory ZERO installing a private 5G network from Verizon to manufacture the next generation of electric vehicles.
However, it should be remembered that despite its promise, private 5G networks are also still very much in their infancy, with a survey from STL Partners showing that the majority of enterprises still rely primarily on Wi-Fi and ethernet or fixed broadband for their connectivity needs.
Meanwhile, Open RAN has been gaining momentum for some months now as we reported yesterday in this IEEE Techblog post. In November, Dish and Qualcomm announced that they are set to work together on the U.S.’s first Open RAN-compliant (which spec?) 5G network. Similarly, in the UK, Vodafone’s August pilot for Open RAN, that took place in Wales, is being scaled up to 2,600 Open RAN sites in Wales and England, potentially using them to replace Huawei gear.
Meanwhile, companies like Mavenir continue to rapidly develop open RAN solutions, recently boasting of supporting 2G–5G for its open RAN packet core, thanks to a recent acquisition of ip.access.
Baldock concludes, “it seems fair to say that Open RAN is here to stay and is no longer something of a novelty. While many issues remain around things like standardization (e.g. no liaison with either ITU, ETSI or 3GPP) the movement is beginning to see increasing interest from operators and policymakers alike.”
German Telecom Regulator awards 5G private network licenses in the 3.7GHz to 3.8GHz band
4 thoughts on “Progress in 5G private networks and Open RAN”
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.
Iain Morris of Light Reading:
The danger of open RAN is that it substitutes a series of dependencies for reliance on a couple of giant kit vendors. So far, there seem to be limited options for each disaggregated element – Dell, HPE and Supermicro on the server side, for instance, or Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless in software. The smallest companies lack the financial strength of Ericsson and Nokia. And in the absence of Arm-based alternatives, Intel rules over baseband. A vulnerability in any part of the chain could bring the whole system crashing down.
IEEE ComSoc and SCU will host a virtual panel session on Private 4G/5G and OpenRAN. We have confirmed participants from Nokia, Mavenir, Intel, and EdgeQ + analyst firm StrandConsult. If you’re interested in attending this FREE event (to be scheduled in late Feb) please email me: [email protected] & I will put you on the email invitation list.
Hughes Network Systems announced the award of an $18 million contract from the Department of Defense (DoD) to deploy a standalone 5G network at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state. The Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) was issued through the Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP) consortium, a collaboration to engage industry and academia to develop and mature technologies in the field of information warfare that enhance Navy and Marine Corps mission effectiveness. Hughes will serve as the prime contractor connecting the base with a secure 5G network to support operations, maintenance and flight traffic management. The Hughes 5G network will utilize spectrum from DISH Wireless, the only carrier capable of providing the right combination of low band, mid band, and high band (mmWave) spectrum. This work is part of on-going DoD 5G experimentation led by the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“Over the course of this three-year project, we will demonstrate for the U.S. Department of Defense how 5G infrastructure from Hughes – including a packet processing core, radio access, edge cloud, security and network management – can power the resilient networking necessary to transform base operations,” said Dr. Rajeev Gopal, vice president, Advanced Programs, Hughes. “Today’s walkie-talkies, paper-trails and telephone conversations will be replaced with a private, secure 5G network over which air station processes and systems will be automated and continuously optimized. What’s more, the standalone, standards-based configuration – including O-RAN standards for flexibility – will connect seamlessly anywhere on the planet using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellite connectivity.”
“DISH is delivering the connectivity for this private 5G network, providing engineering services, support and access to our spectrum portfolio,” said Stephen Bye, chief commercial officer, DISH. “As we build our own network, we’re proud to team with Hughes in this important project to deliver a fast, secure, reliable network to serve the U.S. Department of Defense and support mission-critical functions.”
“This award is a testament to Hughes leadership in engineering and managing smart networks that enable the military to exchange information with the right people at the right time with an any-network approach that’s hardware agnostic and transport independent,” said Rick Lober, vice president and general manager, Hughes Defense. “We look forward to showcasing our capabilities in secure management of a 5G stand-alone deployment with advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning for ongoing enhancement and increasing efficiencies.”
The deployment, which began in September 2021, leverages Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) and meets National Security Administration (NSA) Commercial Solution for Classified (CSFC) requirements. Working together on the project, with Hughes as the integrator, are: Boingo Wireless, Cisco, Dell, DISH, JMA Wireless and Intel.
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