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Next G Alliance: What Do We Need to Know?

Saurav Jha

The Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) enables companies to design, implement, and customize 5G networks by integrating vendor-neutral hardware and open software and interfaces. But the tech companies and telecom companies still need to take initiatives and implement policies to keep 5G wireless system fully open and interoperable. In May, 31 telecom firms, technology companies, and chip-manufacturers formed and announced an alliance – Open RAN Policy Coalition – to promote adoption of interoperable and open wireless technologies including 5G.

According to OpenRANPolicy.org, “Coalition members believe that by standardizing or “opening” the protocols and interfaces between the various subcomponents (radios, hardware and software) in the RAN, we move to an environment where networks can be deployed with a more modular design without being dependent upon a single vendor. Standardizing and developing open interfaces will allow us to ensure interoperability across different players and potentially lower the barrier to entry for new innovators.

Unlike earlier G alliances, Open RAN Policy Coalition has leading tech companies and telecom firms as its member. At present, Open RAN Policy Coalition members include leading tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), leading telecom firms like Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone, and Reliance Jio, and chip manufacturers like Intel, Samsung, and Qualcomm. Since May, new tech companies and telecoms firms have been joining the next G alliance to ensure that no hardware or software component of the 5G network depends on a single supplier or vendor.

Why Do We Call Open RAN Policy Coalition as the Next G Alliance?

Development of Open and Interoperable Solutions

OpenRAN facilitates the development of fifth-generation wireless networks by integrating vendor-neutral software and hardware components. But the wireless operators can leverage the benefits of OpenRAN technology fully only when the key components of a 5G network are standardized and interoperable. The primary goal of the Open RAN Policy Coalition is to create policies that facilitate the development of wireless technologies that are both open and interoperable.

The alliance aims to persuade policymakers to support open and interoperable solutions as well as vendor diversity. Hence, the 5G networks will not be deployed in a manner similar to 4G networks using a closed and fully-integrated system provided by a single vendor. The open and interoperable solutions will enable wireless providers to design and customize the fifth-generation wireless networks by combining the best hardware and software components.

Emphasis on Ending Single Vendor Dependency

In 2020, many analysts and bloggers start speculating the 5G deployment is going to be dominated by leading Chinese and European players in the global market. The domination will make it essential for companies to purchase software and hardware components of the 5G network from limited vendors. The Open RAN Policy Coalition aims to eliminate scenarios where a company has to rely on a single vendor or a closed proprietary system.

The alliance will ensure that each wireless provider has the option to choose from a wide range of components and solution. Instead of addressing the concerns of individual members or companies, the alliance emphasizes keeping in place a robust supply chain that cannot be dominated by a single player. The existing players, as well as new innovators, can become a part of this supply chain without any restrictions or barriers.

Accelerate 5G Deployment

One of the key objectives of the Open RAN Policy Coalition is to promote policies for removing the barriers in 5G deployment. Every telecom company and device manufacturer has to address a slew of challenges to customize and deploy 5G. Also, the challenges in 5G deployment vary across regions. The next G Alliance will help 5G network operators and device manufacturers to eliminate the barriers as part of a powerful collaboration. However, the alliance aims to address the existing and emerging challenges in 5G deployment without using any prescriptive or heavy-handed solution.

Fund Research and Development

In addition to keeping 5G open and interoperable, the alliance focuses on funding research and development (R&D). The cash-rich companies can easily optimize 5G ecosystem and create unique use cases by funding R&D projects. Some of these companies will further share their internal research to drive 5G technology adoption. The R&D will further help the enterprises to build a solid and open platform for deployment of 6G networks.

Help Innovators to Enter

Along with funding R&D, the Open RAN Policy Coalition aims to make it easier for innovators to enter the ecosystem with innovative products and solutions. One of the primary goals of the Next G Alliance is to ensure interoperability between players and vendors. Also, the alliance aims to lower the barriers that make it difficult for new innovators to enter the 5G marketplace. The unrestricted entry of new innovators will create more choices for telecom and tech companies. Also, the innovation will make it essential for large players to finetune existing solutions to remain relevant.

Fresh Initiatives Taken by Members

The leading tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have been leveraging their expertise to set up virtualized 5G networks. They have been announcing innovative solutions and taking fresh initiatives to ride the 5G wave. Facebook has launched the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) by partnering and collaborating with over 500 leading telecom and technology companies. TIP aims to facilitate designing, development and deployment of more efficient and flexible wireless technologies.

Likewise, Google collaborated with leading telecom companies to launch the Global Mobile Edge Cloud (GMEC) strategy. The GMEC strategy aims to facilitate delivery on unique services and solutions that run at the edge and delivered through 5G networks. At the same time, Microsoft collaborated with telecom companies to facilitate the creation of new services and business models by bringing cloud and edge computing closer. Microsoft has announced its plan to help operators deliver innovative services and solutions using Microsoft Azure without increasing infrastructural cost.

Conclusion

The Open RAN Policy Coalition is formed by telecom carriers, chip-making companies, and technology companies with the aim to keep key components of 5G networks – hardware, software, and radios – open, standardized, and interoperable. The members of the next G alliance have been implementing policies and taking initiatives to ensure that no component of 5G networks depends on a single vendor or supplies. With new tech and telecom companies joining the Open RAN Policy Coalition, the alliance is going from strength to strength.

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