Moving to open-source software could help carriers more easily build their 5G networks
Carriers worldwide are turning to open-source networking software that would allow them to use multiple suppliers
Deutsche Telekom spokeswoman Pia Habel says that O-RAN’s goal is to “invite in more players with new ideas to help make the network stronger and more secure.” The plan would also give the carriers more negotiating power. If networking equipment like antennas, switches, and other gear can communicate with each other regardless of the manufacturer, the wireless operators will be able to purchase such gear from any of the suppliers no matter which firm they used before. This will give power to the carriers that they don’t currently have. For example, today’s report notes that AT&T wants to replace proprietary software developed by Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson for its networks with open-source software. And virtual networks using open-source software can now be built using equipment from multiple vendors.
While Nokia and Ericsson might not be terribly excited about losing control over pricing, both have decided to get involved with O-RAN and TIP. Ericsson joined the former and Nokia is a member of the latter. Dish Network is a member of O-RAN and plans on using open-source software to help build the 5G network it will need to replace Sprint as the nation’s fourth-largest carrier. Since it costs billions of dollars to build a 5G network, using open-source software could help Dish save some money.
British carrier Vodafone has issued contracts for TIP’s OpenRAN in order to standardize radio access network hardware and software. Company CEO Nick Read said in October that Vodafone was “ready to fast track it into Europe as we seek to actively expand our vendor ecosystem.”
The O-RAN/TIP initiative might not help countries make a decision about whether Huawei is a security threat. But it does help the carriers in these countries build their 5G networks with or without Huawei’s inclusion.