TIP, O-RAN Alliance reach liaison agreement

The Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and the O-RAN Alliance announced a liaison agreement to ensure their alignment in developing interoperable open Radio Access Network (RAN) solutions.

Up until now, the overlapping efforts of the groups led to a lot of questions about how they might be duplicating work and/or somehow come together. This latest move is not a merger by any means but what the groups are calling a “new level of collaboration” for open RAN.

“Our hope, longer term, is that this forms the ability to accelerate the solutions that are in the marketplace and drives greater adoption of Open RAN technologies across the world,” said TIP Executive Director Attilio Zani.

One example of how they’re already collaborating is a Deutsche Telekom (DT) lab in Berlin, where both the TIP community and O-RAN Alliance will test new solutions, especially on the 5G New Radio (NR) platform, according to Zani.

Alex Jinsung Choi, COO of the O-RAN Alliance and SVP Strategy and Technology Innovation at DT, referenced the lab in a statement. “Alignment on O-RAN interoperability efforts will help the industry to speed up the delivery of commercial open RAN solutions,” he said. “The establishment of the first joint O-RAN Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC) with the TIP Community Lab in Berlin is a concrete step to facilitate this multi-community approach.”

TIP is agnostic about the specifications it uses to put in the solutions that operators want; it works with various standards bodies. But it now has a contract in place with the O-RAN Alliance; the liaison agreement allows for the sharing of information, referencing specifications and conducting joint testing and integration efforts.

The TIP OpenRAN 5G NR Project Group will be releasing its OpenRAN 5G NR Base Station Platform requirements document with normative references to the O-RAN specifications.

“Our opportunity here is really to build confidence in open RAN across the entire world,” and work more closely with others, Zani told FierceWirelessTech. “My hope is that this will continue to accelerate our endeavor to roll out solutions that operators want.”

Companies leading efforts in the open RAN space have talked about the need for an alternative to the “cartel” that meant operators were locked into one particular vendor’s solutions, rather than being able to mix and match and everything would just work.

Nokia is a member of TIP, but Ericsson is not. However, “we would absolutely welcome any organization” with the shared idea of disaggregation being a key component of the supply chain, Zani said. A significant number of vendors are members and contribute to deploying solutions. “What we’re seeing is an acceleration in the confidence" of these more openly created technologies.

For the first time at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, TIP would have had its own booth, showcasing the work of its partners, rather than sharing rooms in Facebook’s space, as was the case for previous MWC shows. This year, the two were to have their own separate booths, indicating a graduation of sorts for TIP.

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Dan Rabinovitsj, vice president of Facebook Connectivity, explained that TIP doesn’t focus so much on writing specs as it’s more about plugfests—it’s basically consuming other groups’ specs and focusing more on the system level issues.  

“We’re interested in how do you take disaggregated RAN transport and core elements and be able to swap between them and still come out with the same outcome for mobile operators,” he said during an interview on a range of topics.

In that sense, “we’re really flexible about which specifications can come into the products. We’re much more focused on how do we get the whole industry to collaborate on making stuff actually work in the real world when you have to plug it together," he said.