The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN project and the O-RAN Alliance today announced a liaison agreement to ensure their alignment in developing interoperable, disaggregated and open Radio Access Network (RAN) solutions.
Since their inception, the overlapping efforts of the two consortiums led to a lot of questions about duplication of work, different specs and interface for the same functions as well as different IP licensing policies. The two groups are calling this liaison arrangement as a “new level of collaboration” for open RAN, rather than a merger. The press release stated:
With this liaison agreement O-RAN and TIP are now reaching a new level of collaboration for open RAN. The liaison allows for sharing information, referencing specifications and conducting joint testing and integration efforts.
The O-RAN Alliance was formed in February 2018 when the x-RAN Forum merged with the C-RAN Alliance. The group is focused on the development of open, intelligent, virtualized and interoperable RAN specifications. The Alliance has already created 31 specifications, with 37 demonstrations of the technology at past MWC events, global plugfests, and more than 1 000 000 lines of code released in partnership with the Linux Foundation. Operators have begun to announce network implementations.
O-RAN Alliance’s mission and focus complements TIP’s mission of deploying end-to-end disaggregated telecom infrastructure in varying environments.
TIP said it’s seen a rapid increase in demand for advanced OpenRAN trials and deployments.
- Following on the heels of its TIP Summit announcement in November 2019, Vodafone launched trials in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is progressing with trials in the UK and Ireland.
- In Indonesia, Indosat Ooredoo and Smartfren will conduct the first OpenRAN field trials in the APAC region. Smartfren has also conducted and completed the first OpenRAN lab trial in the region.
- In Malaysia, Edotco, the tower arm of Axiata group, is collaborating with Celcom Axiata in conducting lab trials with the path to field trials. Following their announcement of TIP OpenRAN deployment in the UAE, Etisalat is starting trials of OpenRAN systems in other regions. In North America, Sprint completed its RFI evaluation and will begin trials of OpenRAN 5G NR technologies in its TIP Community Lab.
Evenstar Program to feed into OpenRAN:
Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, MTI, AceAxis, Facebook Connectivity and additional partners have unveiled the Evenstar RRU (Remote Radio Units). The Evenstar program will focus on building general-purpose RAN reference designs for 4G/5G networks in the Open RAN ecosystem that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications.
The Evenstar program will contribute to the OpenRAN ecosystem by focusing on building general-purpose RAN reference designs for 4G and 5G networks that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications and will help accelerate the adoption of TIP OpenRAN Project Group Solutions.
By decoupling the RRU hardware, Central Unit (CU) and Distributed Unit (DU) software, mobile network operators will have the ability to select best-of-breed components and the flexibility to deploy solutions from an increasing number of technology partners, TIP said. The intention of the Evenstar program is to contribute the proposed solution into TIP’s OpenRAN Project Group to help accelerate adoption.
“This new collaboration framework between O-RAN and TIP, two major initiatives in the area of open networking, will support our mission to re-shape the RAN industry towards open and intelligent mobile network infrastructure,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, COO of the O-RAN Alliance and SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom.
“Alignment on O-RAN interoperability efforts will help the industry to speed up the delivery of commercial open RAN solutions. The establishment of the first joint O-RAN Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC) with the TIP Community Lab in Berlin is a concrete step to facilitate this multi-community approach.”
“TIP’s OpenRAN solutions are an important element of our work to accelerate innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core & Services. Across the TIP community, we are seeing increasing demand and have achieved meaningful progress with OpenRAN deployments around the world,” said Attilio Zani, Executive Director, Telecom Infra Project.
“With this collaboration framework in place, TIP and O-RAN will work together to develop interoperable 5G RAN solutions. One of our first outputs will be the release of the OpenRAN 5GNR NR Base Station Platform requirements document with normative references to the O-RAN specifications.”
“Our hope, longer term, is that this forms the ability to accelerate the solutions that are in the marketplace and drives greater adoption of Open RAN technologies across the world,” Zani added.
About O-RAN Alliance:
O-RAN Alliance is a world-wide community of more than 160 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, 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-compliant mobile networks will at the same time improve the efficiency of RAN deployments as well as operations by the mobile operators. To achieve this, O-RAN Alliance publishes new RAN specifications, releases open software for the RAN, and supports its members in integration and testing of their implementations.
For a short video describing O-RAN’s progress, see www.o-ran.org/videos
For more information please visit www.o-ran.org
About Telecom Infra Project:
TIP is a collaborative telecom community that is evolving the infrastructure that underpins global connectivity. TIP’s mission is to accelerate the pace of innovation in next generation telecom networks, through the design, build, test and deployment of standards-based, open and disaggregated end-to-end solutions. Over the past four years, TIP has driven substantial innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core & Services, while spanning urban through to rural market use cases. To date, it has 13 Community Labs which test, validate and integrate solutions, embarked on field trials in Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Europe. The recently launched TIP Exchange hosts 45 products from 28 member companies.
Vodafone Moves to O-RAN:
One of those early-adopter operators of the O-RAN Alliance specs is Vodafone. In November 2019, Vodafone’s head of network strategy and architecture Santiago Tenorio announced at the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Summit in Amsterdam that Vodafone would issue a request for quotes (RFQ) for open RAN technology for its entire European footprint.
“That’s significantly more than 100,000 sites, and all the technologies are to tender — 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G,” said Tenorio. “We’ve invited the incumbent suppliers in Europe of course, but we’ve also invited the open RAN suppliers.” He didn’t sound too optimistic about the incumbent suppliers. Apparently, they hadn’t even responded to a Vodafone request for information about open 5G new radio equipment.
Mostafa Essa, an AI and data analytics distinguished engineer with Vodafone, told FierceWireless: “If you use a specific vendor for the RAN and ask him to carry some new features for something you are needing that is impacting your customers, they have to go back to their R&D and build up features,” said Essa. “Then we’ll test and give feedback. Right now, by using the open RAN concept, you can build up whatever you want whenever you want. It’s not connected to vendors’ roadmaps,” he added.
Vodafone has been conducting field trials in some of its markets in Europe, including Spain, Italy and in a rural area north of London. Vodafone used Parallel Wireless for its first open RAN tests, which it conducted in Turkey and Africa.
Essa continued: “We have a lot of instability, which is to be expected in trials. Right now, we are in the building phase. When you roll out this technology, sometimes you can get a lot of dropped calls and so on. But it’s the same as working with the vendors…..who are building systems with their own closed-source software.”
1. Vodafone Italy, which competes with Telecom Italia (TIM), has acquired spectrum to enable the deployment of 5G technology for €2.4 billion during the 5G spectrum auction that fetched $7.6 billion for the Government.
The Italian Government will collect 1,250 million euros from all mobile operators during the current year, 50 million in 2019, 300 million in 2020, 150 million in 2021, and the remaining in 2022 from the 5G auction.
Though telecom operators will be releasing the spectrum auction money in the next five years, it will pose challenges to the telecom industry in Italy. Bloomberg reports that 5G spectrum auction in Italy was a record as compared with the auction in South Korea.
“Spectrum auctions should be designed to balance fiscal requirements with the need for investment to enable economic development. It is critical that European governments avoid artificial auction constructs which fail to strike a healthy balance for the industry,” Nick Read said in a statement.
Vodafone Italy, the second largest telecom operator, posted €1.231 billion revenue registering 6.5 percent drop in the first quarter ended 30 June 2018 against 0.7 percent increase in Q4 of previous fiscal.
Vodafone Italy and other operators are facing competition following the launch of a new entrant in late May. Vodafone Italy launched a new secondary brand to specifically address the needs of customers in the value segment of the market.
Vodafone Italy said the 5G spectrum will deliver network operating cost efficiency to meet the expected future growth in data traffic.
Vodafone Italy is buying 3700 MHz – 80 MHz for €1,685 million, 700 MHz – 2 x 10 MHz FDD for €683 million and 26 GHz – 200 MHz for €33 million.
Vodafone Italy will be using the 3700 MHz spectrum to enhance coverage, improve capacity, and for rapid development of 5G services. Vodafone Italy did not reveal the timing of its planned 5G launch in Italy.
Vodafone Italy will also utilize the 700 MHz spectrum, when it is available from 2022, to deploy 5G services, providing nationwide coverage at very high speed and very low latency for including IoT, virtual and augmented reality, connected vehicles and robotics. This indicates that Vodafone Italy will be playing in both the business and consumer markets of 5G to improve ARPU.
Vodafone Italy said it can also use the 26 GHz spectrum to deliver high capacity services in densely populated locations such as city centres, sports stadiums or industrial plants.
Vodafone said it is leading 5G trials promoted by the Ministry for Economic Development in Milan and its metropolitan area. Vodafone 5G network has already achieved coverage of 80 percent of Milan and targeting 80 percent 5G coverage in its metropolitan area by December 2018.
2. Telecom Italia (TIM) has obtained 5G frequencies for an 80MHz block of 3700 MHz for 1,694 million euros and a 200MHz block of 26 GHz for 33 million euros.
In addition to the two blocks of 700 MHz, TIM’s total investment in the 5G spectrum auction will be 2,407 million euros.
“The switch on of the antenna in Bari certifies TIM’s technological primacy in 5G space in Italy,” Amos Genish said.
Investment in 5G network is an important part of the TIM strategy for sprucing up revenue in Italy. TIM’s telecom business in Italy has posted 7.454 billion euros in revenue in the first half of 2018 against 7.494 billion euros in the same period 2017.
TIM 5G will be focusing on both consumer and business customers. Consumer business of TIM’s telecom business in Italy has reported 3.753 billion euros in revenue, while 2.333 billion euros came from business customers and 860 million euros from wholesale business in Italy.
TIM will use 3700 MHz and 26 GHz to leverage the testing already underway in Turin, Bari and Matera and in the Republic of San Marino.
TIM has started to implement services for the Smart City targeting public security, transport, environmental monitoring, healthcare, tourism and culture, in San Marino.
The 3700 MHz band, already used for the tests launched at the start of the year, is available immediately.
TIM will use 26 GHz millimetre wave band, which will be available from 2019, to conduct road test for the first 5G services. TIM will use the 700 MHz frequencies, available from 2022, to strengthen UBB coverage, including in indoor areas, with the implementation of 5G technology.
TIM said its 4G mobile broadband coverage reached over 98 percent of the population in Italy and fixed broadband reached 80 percent of homes via FTTC and FTTH technology.
Two new partnerships promise to increase global IoT connectivity.
1. Chunghwa Telecom and Tata Communications:
India’s global network operator Tata Communications is partnering with Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom to bring global connectivity to consumer electronics and Industrial Internet of Things devices. In a joint press release, the companies said the partnership will enable Chunghwa Telecom to tap into additional revenues by connecting IoT devices through Tata Communications’ MOVE-IoT Connect platform which enables IoT devices to be deployed quickly -both locally and internationally- by leveraging Tata Communications’ ecosystem of mobile network operators worldwide.
The Taiwanese electronics industry output is expected to be worth $228 billion (NT$6.65 trillion) in 2018, and the wearables market grew at double digits in both volume and value terms in 2017. Chunghwa Telecom looks to capitalize on this growth through the existing IoT roaming services the operator provides.
“Our aim is to serve three million IoT devices in the next three years, and Tata Communications will be one of our key partners to fulfill this ambition,” Ming-Shih Chen, president of mobile business group at Chunghwa Telecom.
“Tata Communications MOVE will give our customers’ IoT services borderless network coverage across 200 countries, ensuring a consistently high-quality and reliable user experience.”
One of Chunghwa Telecom’s first Tata Communications’ MOVE – IoT Connect customers is TaiDoc Technology, which manufactures premium medical devices to improve people’s health and quality of life. TaiDoc will use Tata Communications MOVE – IoT Connect to extend the reach of its devices to countries such as China, Thailand and the U.S.
“Our aim is to serve three million IoT devices in the next three years, and Tata Communications will be one of our key partners to fulfil this ambition,” said Ming-Shih Chen, President of Mobile Business Group, Chunghwa Telecom. “Tata Communications MOVE™ will give our customers’ IoT services borderless network coverage across 200 countries, ensuring a consistently high-quality and reliable user experience. At the same time, we’re able to extend our business easily by being part of the Tata Communications’ MOVE™ ecosystem of mobile network operators. It’s a win-win for us.”
“IoT devices require borderless, secure and scalable connectivity to enable the capture, movement and management of information worldwide. Cellular connectivity is an effective foundation for IoT services, but the problem is that today’s mobile networks are inherently local – there is no such concept as a global mobile network,” said Anthony Bartolo, chief product officer at Tata Communications.
“We want to change that. We’re excited to work with Chunghwa Telecom and other leading mobile network operators around the world to build a truly global ecosystem of connectivity, and spur IoT adoption by businesses worldwide.”
2. China Unicom and Telefonica:
China Unicom has signed an agreement with Spain’s Telefonica designed to simplify and accelerate IoT deployments for their respective enterprise customers globally. The partnership will give the two operators access to each others’ network and allow them to provide IoT products and services across several key markets through a single global SIM card.
The agreement will also consolidate their respective positions in IoT in Europe, Latin America and China, three of the most important IoT markets in the world, the companies said in a joint statement. Enterprise customers of Telefonica and China Unicom will be able to easily and seamlessly deploy IoT products and services in these three regions with a single global IoT SIM card. By using a unified IoT connectivity management platform, they will be able to control connections globally and to localize IoT SIMs once they reach a certain geography (subscription swap), the pair said.
“We are leveraging IoT technologies to accompany our customers on their digital transformation journey, where IoT has a very important role to play. Telefónica IoT is named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Managed M2M Services worldwide, maintaining that position we have held since inception four years ago…..Simplifying massive IoT deployments is key and therefore we are strengthening our ecosystem of partners. Our partnership with China Unicom will strengthen Telefónica’s capability to meet our global customer needs,” Telefonica chief IoT officer Vicente Muñoz said.
Enterprise customers will be able to enjoy these new IoT capabilities later this year, Muñoz added.
In related news, China Mobile has signed a deal with UK’s Vodafone, under which the pair have agreed to resell each other’s IoT services for the first time. The agreement, announced at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, will see each company share new IoT project opportunities with their partners.
Vodafone customers will be given access to China Mobile IoT SIMs for deployments in China, while China Mobile customers wanting to offer IoT-enabled products outside of China will do so via Vodafone’s Global IoT SIM and management platform.
Vodafone will manage all elements of the operational model for its customers including on-boarding, SIM and logistics as well as billing and support. The company will act as a single point of contact for its enterprise IoT customers wanting to move into China.
China Mobile will discuss the possibility for IoT sales opportunities with Vodafone for companies wanting to expand outside of China.
Dorothy Lin, China Mobile International’s head of mobile business partnership, said the collaboration with Vodafone will allow the Chinese mobile giant to offer customers the greatest possible reach of IoT services.
“Having reached over 200 million IoT connections last year, China Mobile aims to increase the connections by 60% in 2018,” Lin noted.