Open RAN: A Year in Review

On May 5, 2020, the Open RAN Policy Coalition launched with a goal of educating global policymakers on the “who, what and why” of open radio access networks—Open RAN.

Our 60 global member companies were brought together by a single unifying principle: that opening the interfaces in the RAN will allow mobile networks to be deployed with a more modular design, and without being dependent upon a single vendor. We believe that this approach will lower barriers to entry for new innovators, increasing competition and vendor choice.

In order to promote this technological evolution and accelerate a stable, sustainable, and successful transition to 5G and beyond, the Coalition and its members have worked over the last year to promote initiatives and policy priorities that:

  • Support new and existing technology suppliers, as well as small and large network operators, offering open and interoperable RAN solutions along with the integration of those open components;
  • Create a competitive and diverse global ecosystem of trusted suppliers and service providers; and
  • Build and maintain U.S. and allied technological leadership both in 5G and future wireless network development.

Last summer, we introduced a webinar series starting with an “Open RAN 101” event, featuring keynote addresses from House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden and Congresswoman Doris Matsui. Our focus was on educating a policy-focused audience about the basic premise of Open RAN and the benefits of promoting open and interoperable interfaces.

We also released an infographic on this topic, as well as a policy roadmap outlining steps that governments and policymakers can take to accelerate the adoption of open standards in the RAN. As the issue continued to gain more traction in the media and among policymakers, we hosted a webinar on “Innovation and Open Standards for a Diverse and Competitive Market,” highlighting the intersection of Open RAN policy and technical standards.

Open RAN also came to the forefront of discussions on supply chain security and 5G deployment, prompting policymakers to take significant steps to spur the advancement of open and interoperable interfaces in the RAN. 

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2021, which passed at the end of last year, included important initiatives to spur Open RAN deployment.  The USA Telecommunications Act, which was incorporated into the NDAA, authorized the creation of the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund which will award grants to “promote and deploy technology that will enhance competitiveness in 5G supply chains that use open and interoperable-interface RANs.” These funds will help accelerate the deployment of Open RAN technologies here in the United States while promoting system compatibility.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) also recognized Open RAN as an important part of secure and reliable communications networks. The Coalition filed comments last year in the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Protecting Against National Security Threats to the Communications Supply Chain, and in response to an NTIA request for recommendations on developing the Administration’s Implementation Plan for the National Strategy to Secure 5G.

Just last week, we filed substantive comments in the FCC’s NOI on the Current Status of Open RAN Technology, which included a new analysis published by the Coalition on Open RAN Security in 5G.

At an event that we hosted in March, “How Will an Open RAN Facilitate a Diverse, Competitive and Secure Ecosystem for 5G and Beyond?” Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel made clear her ambitious plans for advancing Open RAN, stating “Instead of just having forums and discussions, we should develop a fact-based record at the FCC, which will help us understand how we can change our rules and what partnerships we can forge with other government entities to support this technology.” 

Most recently, the Coalition hosted a webinar on “Startup Innovation in the Open RAN Ecosystem” with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who said that Open RAN will disrupt the wireless industry in a way that is going to be very beneficial, and that policymakers should avoid “putting a thumb on the scale” to determine winners and losers in the marketplace.

Mobile networks are the lifeblood of our future digital ecosystem. Ensuring a healthy supply chain has never been more important and cooperating with our allies on wireless technology has never been more critical. As advanced mobile networks are deployed for 5G, Open RAN is an issue that impacts not only technology policy, but also economic policy and economic security. 

We are proud of the progress that has been made on Open RAN in just one year. Our Coalition and membership look forward to continuing our work with policymakers to shape and advance policies that will help create a more diverse, competitive and secure ecosystem based on open interfaces for 5G and beyond.