O-RAN Alliance tries to allay concerns; Strand Consult disagrees!

The O-RAN Alliance reiterated its commitment towards Open and intelligent Radio Access Network (RAN) and said its board has approved changes to O-RAN “participation documents and procedures” to allay concerns of some participants who may be subjected to U.S. export regulations.

The O-RAN Alliance became aware of concerns regarding some participants that may be subject to U.S. export regulations, and has been working with O-RAN participants to address these concerns. The O-RAN Board has approved changes to O-RAN participation documents and procedures. While it is up to each O-RAN participant to make their own evaluation of these changes, O-RAN is optimistic that the changes will address the concerns and facilitate O-RAN’s mission.

“O-RAN is an open and collaborative global alliance operating in a way that promotes transparency and participation of our member companies in the development and adoption of global open specifications and standards,” said Andre Fuetsch, Chairman of the O-RAN ALLIANCE and Chief Technology Officer of AT&T.

“We remain fully committed to working together in the alliance to achieve the goals and objectives of O-RAN as quickly as possible,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, Chief Operating Officer of the O-RAN ALLIANCE and SVP of Strategy and Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom.

This comes after Nokia halted its work in the Open RAN industry alliance over concerns that it may face penalties from the U.S. government for working with blacklisted Chinese entities.

John Strand’s comments:

This statement is not solving the Chinese security problem.  Even with the proposed changes, the five founding members, including China Mobile, still have a veto. The statement from O-RAN Alliance raises more questions than it answers. Who are the member companies, do the network operators agree with the O-RAN Alliance statement? How about contributors and the license adopters?

Strand Consult wants to create the transparency O-RAN Alliance are fighting against, and I share the concerns of the EU and the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee when it comes to transparency. At the same time, we believe it is a great idea for O-RAN Alliance to become WTO (World Trade Organization) compliant like other professional telecom standard bodies. What’s the problem for ORAN Alliance to be WTO compliant? It’s hard to see any downside.

Strand Consult doesn’t believe the changes will satisfy WTO requirements nor does it align with the practices of professional standards organizations nor with shareholder practices of U.S. and EU publicly traded companies.

Last year Strand Consult exposed the 44 Chinese companies involved in the O-RAN Alliance three of them on the entity list.

The O-RAN Alliance proposes changes to mitigate Chinese involvement. However these changes will probably not satisfy WTO compliance rules. Here are some relevant report from EU/WTO and European Commission (EC) on OpenRAN: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tbt_e/principles_standards_tbt_e.htm

https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/commission-publishes-study-future-5g-supply-ecosystem-europe

https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/redirection/document/78778 (page 76).

The EC’s report is based on publicly available information and an interview with a legal expert on the WTO rules and EU Regulation No 1025/2012. It notes the following concerns with the O-RAN Alliance’s proposed changes:

  • First,  the  required  transparency,  i.e.  all  essential  information  is  easily  accessible  to  all  interested parties, is only partly fulfilled, e.g. the O-RAN specifications are not accessible at  the homepage.
  • Second, the procedure is not open in a non-discriminatory manner during all stages of the  standard-setting process, because the founding members have access to more information than the contributors during the process.
  • Third, although interested contributors have opportunities to contribute to the elaboration of  the specifications, the founding members have a privilege, because they have the necessary minority of more than 25% to block proposals.

Overall, proof that the O-RAN Alliance complies with the various WTO criteria is  still missing, although some of their members assure this compliance is in place. “Consequently, such an independent  assessment is needed, which, however, cannot be realized within the context of this project.”

The O-RAN Alliance does not satisfy the openness criteria laid down in WTO Principles  for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations. The O-RAN Alliance is a closed industrial collaboration developing technical RAN specification over and above 3GPP specifications or ITU-R recommendations.

3GPP was formed after 2G (GSM) was developed this means that 3GPP did not develop 2G but 3GPP ensured backward compatibility for every G. Note that 3GPP specifications define the technical specifications for a complete mobile cellular network 2G/3G/4G/5G.  ITU-R recommendations only cover the radio access interface technologies, e.g. ITU M.2150/IMT 2020 for “5G.”

It is possible that some U.S. firms could be satisfied with the O-RAN Alliances proposals, but the fact remains that Chinese companies still exert disproportionate authority on this industry group. It is not yet clear with U.S. President Biden or the NTIA will weigh in on the matter.  If not, this could be interpreted as placating, or even going soft on China.

Strand Consult discloses on its website that it is a company providing knowledge to the mobile industry, specifically mobile operators and their managers, executives, and boards of directors. Strand Consult only sells knowledge to mobile operators, and Strand Consult has done this for 25 years (see About Strand Consult below).

About O-RAN ALLIANCE:

The O-RAN ALLIANCE is a world-wide community of over 300 mobile operators, vendors, and research & academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network (RAN) industry. As the RAN is an essential part of any mobile network, the O-RAN ALLIANCE’s mission is to re-shape the industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks. The new O-RAN standards will enable a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem with faster innovation to improve user experience. O-RAN based mobile networks will at the same time improve the efficiency of RAN deployments as well as operations by the mobile operators. To achieve this, the O-RAN ALLIANCE publishes new RAN specifications, releases open software for the RAN, and supports its members in integration and testing of their implementations.

About Strand Consult:

There are six focus areas:
– The mobile broadband market
– The MVNO market
– The market for Value Added Services
– Next Generation Prepaid Services
– The Smartphone market
– Digital strategy for the Telecom and Media industry.

We have spent many man years researching and publishing a series of comprehensive reports and workshops focused on these areas. Market players that have ambitions of being successful within these areas can either try to gain an overview themselves, find solutions and purchase external consultants to help them on their way, or alternatively use Strand Consult’s reports – with or without workshops -to acquire the knowledge they need to be successful in the future.

You can read more about some of our reports here:
Successful Strategies for the Mobile Broadband Market

References:

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210913005701/en/O-RAN-ALLIANCE-Remains-Fully-Committed-to-its-Mission-Towards-Open-and-Intelligent-RAN

https://strandconsult.dk/about-us/

2 thoughts on “O-RAN Alliance tries to allay concerns; Strand Consult disagrees!

  1. BT officials remain interested – but cautious – about open RAN technology.

    “In the short term, it’s not good enough,” argued Richard MacKenzie, a principle researcher with BT, during Light Reading’s Open RAN Digital Symposium this week. But he added: “It’s early days for open RAN.”

    “In the long term, it’s a real competitor,” he predicted.

    MacKenzie’s overall attitude echoes that of Neil McRae, the chief network architect of BT, who outlined his own thoughts on open RAN last month. “Could we build the network we have today purely with open RAN? Absolutely not,” McRae said then.

    BT’s MacKenzie, in comments this week, offered a similar take: “We have to be aware that there are some drawbacks” with current open RAN deployments.

    Importantly, MacKenzie specifically pointed to open RAN costs as a topic in need of further work. “We don’t focus too much on the cost savings as the primary goal,” he said, explaining that BT “is not going to sacrifice the customer experience just to achieve these cost savings.”

    However, MacKenzie said BT is deep into a research project to discover more about the capabilities of open RAN. He said the company, as part of its work in the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), is testing some open RAN technologies in East Anglia, near its London headquarters.

    MacKenzie said that BT is investigating non-real-time RAN intelligent controller (Non-RT-RIC) functions including SON (self-organizing network) technology, energy savings, interference mitigation and massive MIMO.

    He said BT would feed its findings back into TIP in order to move the open RAN ecosystem further toward maturity, and to ensure vendor interoperability.

    Open RAN, of course, is a major new trend in the 5G industry that promises to open up network elements via interoperable interfaces. Such technology would allow operators like BT to mix and match products and services from different vendors – a major change from the networks of today that are often supplied by just one vendor.

    Open RAN proponents argue that the technology can be cheaper and just as good as classical, traditional open RAN equipment. However, Vodafone remains the only major UK operator with a firm open RAN commitment. Earlier this year, Vodafone named suppliers for a 2,500-site deployment in parts of the UK where it must replace Huawei equipment before 2028, under government orders.

    https://www.lightreading.com/open-ran/bt-opens-up-on-open-ran-testing/d/d-id/773893?

  2. Is Open RAN Too Little, Too Late for 5G? by Matt Kapko

    Open RAN bears all the histrionics of an emerging technology that pits wireless industry giants and the status quo against those who want to unlock and open network interfaces to a larger group of players. It’s also mired in geopolitical posturing, highlighting a troubling chasm that threatens global cooperation and agreement on cellular technology standards.

    Hundreds of billions of dollars are on the line, including the power and influence of multinational companies that effectively control the market today. It may sound hyperbolic, but it’s not a stretch to consider open RAN the most divisive technology to confront the wireless industry in many years, perhaps decades.

    Open RAN commands a lot of attention, and for good reason. If it succeeds at scale, it will completely change how mobile networks are designed, deployed, and operated.

    In theory, open RAN enjoys broad support. In practice, it remains rare.

    “Open RAN is certainly complex, particularly given the numerous stakeholders that you have. Everyone from the OEMs to the operators, to the regulators, software companies, you name it — a lot of different people to try to align behind a common purpose,” said Dan Hays, principal at PwC’s Strategy& consultancy.

    “While open RAN has run into some challenges, I don’t think that it’s going to impede the progress of the general move toward a more open architecture and toward a more software driven set of network infrastructure. That seems inevitable, but what we are seeing is that open RAN may well miss most of the 5G generation,” he said.

    Of the at least 180 commercially deployed 5G networks today, one, Rakuten Mobile, is running on open RAN. Dish Network is poised to be the second sometime in early 2022.

    “If you look at 5G rolling out in the most economically developed and populous countries in the world, as it already is, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have operators go back and rip and replace the 5G equipment that they’ve already invested in just to deploy open RAN,” Hays said.

    Moving the Goalposts to 6G
    “At this point even though it seems far away, open RAN may wind up being more of a 6G type of architecture versus one that’s widely adopted for 5G,” he added.

    John Strand, CEO at the Denmark-based consultancy Strand Consult, agrees with this assessment and claims Ericsson and Nokia, despite their heavy involvement in open RAN development, don’t expect the technology to gain significant traction until the latter end of this decade.

    “This is too little, too late for 5G,” he said. “Some of these things will be part of 6G,” but the standardization hasn’t yet effectively leveled up to the industry’s primary standards body 3GPP.

    “The question is: How big of a percent of the installed base will be open RAN?” Strand said. “I think in 2025, less than 1%. And in 2030, less than 3%.”

    Projections aside, questions also remain as to the technical readiness of open RAN, particularly in brownfield networks. Bear in mind that “decisions on mobile network infrastructure purchases, which can range in the billions of dollars, typically get made years before we ever see a commercially available service,” Hays explained.

    https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/is-open-ran-too-little-too-late-for-5g/2021/11/

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