Ericsson hooks up with O-RAN Alliance

Ericsson announced today that it has joined the O-RAN Alliance, a group of telecom service providers and suppliers that are determined to change the way radio access network (RAN) architecture and orchestration are done, aiming for a more open approach rather than the proprietary ways of years gone by.

It wasn’t always a sure bet that Ericsson was going to join the efforts, as it’s exhibited a less gung-ho approach to openness compared to its peers, namely Nokia. But the Swedish vendor gave some indications last year that it was considering joining the movement, and since the O-RAN organization opened its membership up to non-service providers late last year, it’s officially on the roster. The O-RAN Alliance started out as an operator-led initiative.

As a member, Ericsson says it will focus on the open interworking between RAN and network orchestration and automation, with an emphasis on AI-enabled closed-loop automation and end-to-end optimization, to lower operating costs and improve end-user performance.

Ericsson will also focus on the upper-layer function as specified in 3GPP to provide interoperable multivendor profiles for specified interfaces between central RAN functions, resulting in faster deployment of 5G networks on a global scale.

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“Ericsson is a strong supporter of openness in the industry, and the benefits this has on global ecosystems and innovations,” said Erik Ekudden, senior vice president and chief technology officer, in a press release. “Our ambition is to actively support and drive discussions and developments around future RAN architectures and open interfaces. The O-RAN Alliance is an important coalition that creates an arena for these discussions, complementing other standardization and open-source initiatives in the industry which we are already active in.”

Of course, Ericsson is among those driving industry standards in 3GPP and says it is actively contributing to several open-source communities including Linux, ONAP and OpenStack.

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The company said its engagement with the O-RAN Alliance is based on the future needs of mobile network service providers and how networks must evolve to enable a broad range of services with a strong focus on quality, performance and security.

The O-RAN Alliance was founded in early 2018 by AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DoCoMo and Orange by combining the C-RAN Alliance and the xRAN Forum. It’s part of a broad initiative across the industry to fundamentally change the way networks are built. Operators have said they want to eliminate vendor lock-in and have more choices so that they can buy equipment that works together despite being from competing suppliers.