Interoperability Standards for Open Networks
5G deployments are well underway in most developed markets. Arguably, Japan, Korea, China and the USA are all ahead of the UK and Europe in 5G rollout speeds and investment. This might be a good thing when it comes to adoption of Open RAN in the UK – as these could leave larger parts of the networks for open RAN rollout – especially as all large European MNOs have recently aligned in their public commitment to Open RAN.
The emergence of Rakuten in Japan, Dish in the USA and 1&1 in Germany as 5G Open RAN MNO pioneers is helping to push the supplier ecosystem forward and to increase demand-side confidence with other MNOs.
The USA, Japan, Korea, Europe and more lately India are emerging as centres of substantive international collaboration on R&D, product development and interoperability for open RAN and public network infrastructure in general, driven mostly by strategic infrastructure security concerns.
American, European and Japanese operators have been early signatories of the TIP and the O-RAN Alliance. More recently, direct bilateral and multilateral inter-governmental collaboration initiatives announced by DCMS and their counterparts in Japan, Korea and India aim to support and co-ordinate collaborative initiatives to accelerate the availability of Open RAN networks and in some cases lay foundations for 6G R&D collaboration.
Recent security and geopolitical considerations around digital infrastructures, technologies and supply chains are adding further layers of nuance and complexity, as evidenced by ongoing government and regulatory interventions in these markets.
European mobile operators and vendors have been early participants of Open RAN initiatives like TIP and the O-RAN Alliance, but their commercial single-RAN network strategies have often lagged their R&D interests. Recent announcements indicate this is fast changing for most.
European MNOs are now on the driving seat – making commitments to roll out large parts of their networks with Open RAN and pushing national and EU government policy to support open RAN acceleration activities.
Japan and Korea have led the way in mobile network rollout speed and market adoption since the age of 3G. Increasingly, however, they have been falling behind in R&D and global reach of their technology suppliers. With 5G and Open RAN, they appear to have tried to address this gap, with a coherent push from national governments, vendors and national operators.
India is also increasingly emerging as an important R&D hub for Open RAN baseband software.
Key players in the broader region are Samsung, NEC, Fujitsu, NTT, Rakuten and Mavenir.
The entry into the telecoms and Open RAN market of established and new USA tech suppliers and especially the hyperscalers (Meta, Intel, Microsoft, AWS, VMWare, DELL, Redhat, Airspan) could help accelerate innovation, competition, investment and commercial adoption – across all communications market segments.
Such developments could be some help for UK integrators, neutral hosts and smaller, community or private network service providers, as they could take advantage of mature, scalable, ready-to-run 5G cloud platforms provided and supported by global actors at scale.
It may also create opportunities for new cloud-native 5G service providers to emerge under the right conditions – like Dish, Rakuten or 1&1.
Building a more competitive, innovative, and diverse supply chain for the global telecoms market.