Mavenir and Altiostar Collaborate to Deliver OpenRAN Radios for U.S. Market; Parallel Wireless CEO Opinion

Mavenir and Altiostar are among a number of networking software start-ups focusing on delivering Open RAN solutions to wireless network operators .  Both companies specialize in cloud telecoms software – so one would expect them to be competing with each other. However, they have decided to collaborate to deliver a wide portfolio of radios based on OpenRAN principles for the US market.

Both companies will be supporting the development of radios through third party OEM’s that will be based on O-RAN open interfaces and will address the frequencies of Tier-1 and Regional/Rural operators in the US.

Analysis:

The two companies will NOT design or build the radios themselves, which is not within the scope of  networking software startups.  In essence, they will be using O-RAN compliant radios built by (mostly Asian) OEMs/ODMs- many of which are members of the O-RAN Alliance.  One has to wonder, however, why such an agreement is necessary?  Why aren’t O-RAN compliant interface specifications complete and well enough accepted to ensure multi-vendor interoperability?

The joint press release answers those questions:

“Very few companies are participating in the current (OpenRAN) supply chain and mostly offering proprietary radio solutions lacking open interfaces that are not interoperable with other network elements. In addition, the requirement to procure products from trusted vendors in the US market is also causing operators to reconsider supplier options. OpenRAN radios provide new possibilities for operators to implement a secure, cost effective and best of breed solution as networks move to 5G and beyond.”

Parallel Wireless CEO Steve Papa commented to Light Reading that Open RAN (aka O-RAN) “will only be as good as the radios that are available,” he said.  “If Ericsson and Nokia are struggling to be competitive with Huawei’s radios, we should not expect O-RAN to magically solve this problem by using the same semiconductors available to Ericsson and Nokia at present.”

Papa blames a lack of U.S. semiconductor innovation for Huawei’s lead in radios. He has repeatedly urged U.S. authorities to pump an extra $1 billion into radio semiconductor research. He has even suggested using the $1 billion the US recently fined Ericsson for corruption, a remark that is unlikely to win him many friends in Stockholm.

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As part of this effort, it is also planned to have these radios available to support the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act that was signed into law on March 12, 2020.

Public Law No: 116-124 (03/12/2020)

Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019

This bill establishes (1) a mechanism to prevent communications equipment or services that pose a national security risk from entering U.S. networks, and (2) a program to remove any such equipment or services currently used in U.S. networks.

Specifically, the bill prohibits the use of certain federal funds to obtain communications equipment or services from a company that poses a national security risk to U.S. communications networks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must publish and maintain a list of such equipment or services.

Each communications provider must submit an annual report to the FCC regarding whether it has purchased, rented, leased, or otherwise obtained any prohibited equipment and, if so, provide a detailed justification for such action.

The bill also establishes the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program to supply small communications providers (i.e., providers with 2 million or fewer customers) with funds to offset the cost of removing prohibited equipment or services from their networks and replacing it with more secure communications equipment or services.

In addition, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration must establish a program to share information regarding supply chain security risks with trusted communications providers and suppliers.

For a short video describing O-RAN’s progress, see www.o-ran.org/videos

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“Altiostar has been at the forefront of the OpenRAN movement that is now being embraced by mobile operators around the world,” said Ashraf Dahod, CEO of Altiostar Networks. “Our collaboration with Mavenir on OpenRAN radios will ensure operators in the US have a truly open end-to-end infrastructure that will be cost effective and allows them to grow their business.”

“We are collaborating with Altiostar to realize the full promise of OpenRAN. Our Radios will have O-RAN compliant interfaces and will interwork with other vendors’ solutions,” said Pardeep Kohli, President and CEO of Mavenir. “I encourage other companies in the OpenRAN Policy Coalition to open their radios and ensure a broad supply of radios with open interfaces that are interoperable with third party equipment.”

Mavenir and Altiostar have committed to work together to develop a full set of FCC banded radios to be available starting June 2020, with a complete set of radios in the market by Q1 2021. The parties are also committed to making these OpenRAN radios available to be sourced by all OpenRAN vendors and system integrators, widening the OpenRAN supply chain in the US market to meet the frequency band needs of Tier-1 and Regional/Rural operators.

Mavenir and Altiostar have been pioneers of OpenRAN, including founding board members of the Open RAN Policy Coalition, as well as part of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and O-RAN Alliance.

Members of the Open RAN Policy Coalition 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, Nokia, NTT, Oracle, Parallel Wireless, Qualcomm, Rakuten Mobile, Samsung Electronics America, Telefónica, US Cellular, US Ignite, Verizon, VMWare, Vodafone, World Wide Technology, and XCOM-Labs.

Other software start-ups that are pursuing Open RAN include Parallel Wireless,  Robin io., WiSig Networks, and several others.  This author has talked with principals of Robin.io and WiSig who have been invited to write guest articles about their work for the IEEE Techblog.

Below is the O-RAN reference architecture model:

O-RAN Architecture 190122.png

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About Mavenir:
Mavenir is the industry’s only end-to-end, cloud-native Network Software and Solutions/Systems Integration Provider for 4G and 5G, focused on accelerating software network transformation for Communications Service Providers (CSPs). Mavenir offers a comprehensive end-to-end product portfolio across every layer of the network infrastructure stack. From 5G application/service layers to packet core and RAN, Mavenir leads the way in evolved, cloud-native networking solutions enabling innovative and secure experiences for end users. Leveraging innovations in IMS (VoLTE, VoWiFi, Advanced Messaging (RCS)), Private Networks as well as vEPC, 5G Core and OpenRAN vRAN, Mavenir accelerates network transformation for more than 250+ CSP customers in over 140 countries, which serve over 50% of the world’s subscribers.

Mavenir embraces disruptive, innovative technology architectures and business models that drive service agility, flexibility, and velocity. With solutions that propel NFV evolution to achieve web-scale economics, Mavenir offers solutions to help CSPs with cost reduction, revenue generation, and revenue protection. www.mavenir.com

About Altiostar:
Altiostar provides a 4G and 5G open virtualized RAN software solution that supports open interfaces and disaggregates the hardware from the software to build a multi-vendor web-scale network. This solution supports indoor and outdoor massive MIMO, as well as macro and small cells, enabling interference management, carrier aggregation and dual connectivity to improve the efficiency of the network. It also enhances the Quality of Experience for the end user, while providing broadband speeds. Operators can add intelligence, quickly adapt the software for different services and automate operations to rapidly scale the network and reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The Altiostar open vRAN solution has been deployed globally, including the world’s first cloud native-mobile network with Rakuten in Japanwww.altiostar.com

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References:

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/altiostar-and-mavenir-to-deliver-openran-radios-for-us-market-301074220.html

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

Ultra Oxymoron: GSMA teams up with O-RAN Alliance without liaison with 3GPP or ITU

https://techblog.comsoc.org/category/o-ran/#:~:text=Open%20RAN%20Policy%20Coalition%20founding,Qualcomm%2C%20Rakuten%20Mobile%2C%20Samsung%20Electronics

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).

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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.

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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.

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References:

www.openRANpolicy.org

https://www.rcrwireless.com/20200505/policy/open-ran-policy-coalition-launches

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/us-sets-up-new-open-ran-group-amid-telecom-slugfest-with-china/d/d-id/759409?

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

 

 

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