open RAN

Mavenir to FCC: Yes, open RAN is cheaper

Mavenir is fighting against what it argues is the incorrect perception that open RAN equipment costs the same as traditional RAN equipment.

Specifically, Mavenir warned about open RAN pricing information that is "being used for negative marketing against the open RAN community," a situation the company said could result in the "detriment of open RAN in the marketplace."

The issue is key for the company as it works to encourage big and small wireless network operators to embrace the open RAN products and services it is selling. Indeed, Mavenir recently began building its own open RAN hardware in addition to software in order to speed up the overall open RAN marketplace.

At the heart of Mavenir's concerns is a report assembled by Widelity – which provides business and network engineering and consulting services for telecom operators and others – for the FCC. The report provides incredibly detailed pricing information for virtually every aspect of a wireless network, from the cost of an LTE basestation to the price a company might pay to rent a helicopter to place a 5G radio atop a cell tower.

However, the report has generated plenty of criticism because it appears to show that prices for open RAN equipment are relatively the same as prices for regular, traditional RAN equipment. That's important for US operators considering an upgrade to 5G, as well as how they might replace existing Huawei and ZTE equipment deemed unsafe by the US government.

The Widelity report, and its implications, have not been lost on traditional RAN vendors like Nokia, which are now facing an upswing in interest in upstart open RAN vendors like Mavenir.

"While there are minor differences in proposed costs at the low and high end of the spectrum, the heart of the pricing range is the same for open RAN and integrated RAN as set out in the catalog," Nokia crowed of the Widelity report.

And that's exactly the perception that Mavenir is fighting against.

"The public, wireless vendors and mobile operators are currently relying upon the report to make decisions on whether to adopt open RAN moving forward," Mavenir wrote to the FCC in a recent filing, adding that the industry broadly is using the report "to determine open RAN's viability."

As a result, Mavenir said it is working with Widelity to change the pricing for open RAN in its report to ensure "the correct cost estimates be used for open RAN." The company is also urging the FCC to label the Widelity report as a "draft" and to issue a "final" report with updated pricing in the future.

It's unclear how the FCC might act on the topic. The agency has been very supportive of the open RAN trend, but agency officials typically do not offer insight into their decision-making process until the agency releases a final report or notice.

In the meantime, new wireless network operators like Rakuten in Japan and Dish Network in the US continue to tout significant savings from open RAN hardware and network designs.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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