AT&T, Verizon lead new $42.3M open RAN R&D facility in Dallas

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today awarded $42.3 million to fund an open radio access network (open RAN) R&D and testing center in Dallas, Texas, along with a smaller facility in the Washington, D.C area.

AT&T and Verizon will lead the project. The Japanese telecommunications company NTT DOCOMO and India’s Reliance Jio are also founding members of the consortium, although they're not receiving any funding. The University of Texas at Dallas will assist in the maintenance of the Dallas-area center, while Virginia Tech, Northeastern University, Iowa State University and Rutgers University will provide neutral laboratory support.

It is interesting that the new open RAN R&D facility will be headquartered in Dallas - home of AT&T. But the smaller facility will be on the East Coast, closer to Verizon.

“5G is a dynamic technology, but today’s market for wireless equipment is static and highly consolidated,” said NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “Our Wireless Innovation Fund aims to change that."

The Wireless Innovation Fund is a 10-year, $1.5 billion program to support the development of open and interoperable wireless networks. The grant announced today is the fourth round of funding and marks more than $140 million in total to foster an open, resilient and secure mobile ecosystem.
Suppliers associated with the new R&D testing facility include Microsoft, Nokia, Radisys, Airspan, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Rakuten, Samsung, Mavenir, VMWare, RedHat, Wind River, Ciena, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Amdocs, Keysight and VIAVI. 

Robert Soni
Robert Soni, VP of RAN Technology, AT&T (Robert Soni)

Robert Soni, VP of RAN Technology with AT&T, noted in a blog today. “Two months ago, we unveiled plans to deploy Open RAN products across our wireless network.”

Soni was referring to the news in December that AT&T has contracted with Ericsson to deploy open RAN hardware and software throughout AT&T’s networks.

Today, Soni wrote that evaluating how different products integrate with one another is a crucial part of open RAN. “Operators need to have confidence that different vendors’ products will work together at scale before adding them to their network,” he said. “Certainly, we’re excited about how this research will bolster our own efforts to build open RAN into our network at scale. But we also see it as an important step to advance Open RAN generally, since it will secure input and perspective from more than one wireless provider and help ensure the lessons are available to operators around the world.”

Joe Russo, president of Global Network and Technology with Verizon, said in a statement, “The work resulting from this grant will drive the evolution of multi-vendor ORAN capabilities. We are pleased to join AT&T in leading this consortium to build on the substantial work we have driven in this area and drive adoption across the industry at scale.”

Open RAN is bound to be a top topic at the upcoming MWC 2024 conference in Barcelona in a few weeks. Keep current with all of Fierce Wireless’ MWC coverage here.