The Telecom Infra Project's OpenRAN Project Group is marking a major milestone with efforts from two of its operator members to bring vendors to the table, making gear built to the OpenRAN specifications.
Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and Telefónica are both issuing requests for information (RFIs) from vendors to assess their ability to meet the requirements set by Telecom Infra Project (TIP) 's OpenRAN project group, which was announced less than a year ago. The results of those RFIs will be presented in October at the TIP Summit in London, and the vendors that meet the requirements will be identified. (See Facebook's TIP Expands Its Influence, Except in the US.)
This could set up a scramble among Radio Access Network (RAN) vendors to make sure they are included on the list, as major European operators are closely linked to the TIP initiative, including BT and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) as well as Vodafone and Telefónica. (See Facebook's TIP Seizes vRAN Initiative From 3GPP and Nokia Seizes Open RAN Initiative as Ericsson Holds Back.)
It could also move the deployment timetable forward faster. Unlike other virtualized RAN groups, such as xRAN Forum, which is focused on developing specifications and network architecture, and Cisco's Open vRAN initiative, announced in February, TIP's OpenRAN is focused on implementation and getting hardware and software built. (See Cisco Lands One on Ericsson With Open vRAN Initiative.)
Commenting in the TIP press release on the significance of this milestone, Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone’s group head of networks strategy and architecture, said it reflects "strong industry collaboration via the TIP community," and that it should serve to "help align the different open initiatives we have seen flourishing recently" by clearly spelling out to vendors what operators want.
The goal of OpenRAN -- and other virtualized RAN groups -- is to decouple the programmable RAN software from custom hardware, allowing it to run on general purpose processing platforms, to enable greater flexibility for operators and let them innovate faster, at the speed of software.
The OpenRAN project group focused on requirements for RAN platforms to extend the current 4G network coverage, but it also includes 2G and 3G technologies in the RFIs, according to the TIP news release. Yet another separate open RAN group, the Open RAN or ORAN, is focused on 5G networks. (See Major Telcos Pool Efforts to Slash 5G RAN Costs.)
"The vendor technologies presented in response to these RFIs will be evaluated using clear benchmarks that will help guide operators towards the selection of a shortlist of vendors," according to a TIP blog, released today. "Respondents are invited to submit comprehensive information describing the current state of their products and development plans for the next year. Only RAN nodes which demonstrate open interoperability from the perspective of the baseband processing platform, radio hardware, software and business model will be evaluated within this process."
"We are committed to the evaluation, development, and deployment of OpenRAN," David Del Val, Telefónica's I+D CEO, said in the TIP press release. "This RFI is a clear step towards commercialization of these new solutions that will simplify cellular networks deployment and operations, and unleash innovation for a better service to our customers."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading