The Role of Legislative Policy Initiatives in Open RAN

For innovation to succeed, there’s often been the need for a public-private partnership to provide a seal of approval and build confidence among potential customers.

Perhaps the most famous example in the U.S. is the Internet, which was initially developed as ARPANET by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) in partnership with several universities.

Open RAN is another innovation that could have a significant impact on the world as the foundation of 5G networks. The radio access network (RAN) accounts for around 75% of the cost of a wireless network. Open RAN makes it better, more agile and less expensive.

But Open RAN is facing huge, entrenched competitors who could block or slow the movement. It’s also facing the need for a much bigger ecosystem with more competition. And its successes and capabilities need more awareness across the globe. Open RAN’s pivotal role in the viability of 5G networks makes it urgent to connect with legislators worldwide to educate them on the relevant issues.

As a pioneer and leader in the industry, Altiostar is playing a role in educating legislators through its founding membership of the Open RAN Policy Coalition. Recently I spoke at the Policy Summit 2021, (which Altiostar co-sponsored) to further these educational activities.

Policy Summit 2021 – Connect X All Access 

My panel discussion at the Policy Summit 2021 – Connect X All Access virtual event (view here) was focused on issues of government programs, ecosystem and competition. I was joined by Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief of RCR Wireless News, Flynn Rico-Johnson, Legislative Director Office of Rep. Doris Matsui; and Diane Rinaldo, Executive Director, Open RAN Policy Coalition. The moderator was Tim Downs, Executive Producer of the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

Two significant government initiatives will impact 5G and Open RAN. The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 authorized $1.9 billion for a “rip-and-replace” program that allows rural MNOs to replace wireless equipment sold by companies that are a national security risk. This opens the door for these MNOs to utilize Open RAN instead. This bill was funded by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act 2021.

The second act is the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act which provides more than $1 billion to invest in  alternatives to unsafe wireless equipment providers. This act is authorized in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but is not yet funded.

Both of these legislative initiatives should give a boost to Open RAN solutions. And both passed with strong bi-partisan support. This is because Congress views Open RAN used in 5G networks as strategic and because leading in this market segment will be good for consumers and create jobs.

During the event, I emphasized that Open RAN currently leverages technology from several vendors. In the 4G/5G networks we’ve been a part of, many U.S. and international companies are contributing the servers, CPUs, and radios to go along with our software. The combined R&D resources of these vendors is many times that of the traditional RAN vendors, providing a path to greater innovation and disruption in the market. A diverse ecosystem can only help MNOs to drive down network costs and increase innovation as they start down the path of Open RAN.

With legislative support in the U.S. and overseas, the industry can create an Open RAN ecosystem that drives down the cost of 5G networks. It is exciting to team with people that are committed to working with legislators and agency representatives to level the playing field so that Open RAN can win on its own merits.

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About The Author
Thierry Maupile Executive Vice President, Strategy and Product Management