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Indosat Ooredoo the latest to join the OpenRAN race

With OpenRAN enthusiasm stampeding through the industry, Indosat Ooredoo is the latest telco to join the race.

Indosat Ooredoo will become the first telco in Asia to push forward with OpenRAN trials as the team searches for cost effectiveness and accelerated network deployment in Indonesia. The field trials will be up-and-running by April, focusing on the least developed regions of Indonesia.

As part of the initiative, Indosat Ooredoo will also establish the first TIP Community Lab in South-east Asia during the second quarter. This will be the twelfth TIP Community Lab to be opened worldwide in what will act as a telco-neutral platform for the telco community to trial solutions, to drive through interoperability and test market readiness of products.

“Only through collaboration can we accelerate the pace of innovation in telecom networks; we are excited to see the Indonesian telecoms community rallying together for this purpose,” said Attilio Zanni, Executive Director of TIP. “This is the beginning of a transformation journey in Indonesia – as the telecoms community and Indonesian citizens reap the benefits of a locally tested and deployed TIP-led solution, and a stronger supply ecosystem.”

“Indosat Ooredoo has a similar vision with the Government to create an effective and equitable digital ecosystem throughout Indonesia and encourage the emergence of local players,” said Ahmad Al-Neama, CEO of Indosat Ooredoo. “We hope this collaboration will accelerate the creation of a healthier industry and improve the digital economy and better life for the people of Indonesia.”

Specifics for the project are still thin on the ground for the moment, though perhaps this is intentional. Indosat Ooredoo has spoken about encouraging a local ecosystem, and perhaps this will be favoured over the internationally recognised OpenRAN players.

While OpenRAN is collecting interest from telcos all over the world, Indonesia is one of the regions for which the technology can offer the biggest benefits. As a nation where the connectivity industry still has a lot of headroom for growth, ARPU and a significant digital divide has faltered progress.

The promise of OpenRAN, disaggregated software and hardware, could lead to alternative vendors and commoditised equipment to drive down deployment costs. The theory is a revolution, breaking the shackles of the traditional vendor community and inspiring competition for lower costs.

Aside from these trials, Etisalat is trialling OpenRAN across the Middle East and North Africa, while MTN is another which has promised to implement OpenRAN over 5,000 sites across Africa. Turkcell is driving its own implementation in Turkey and IpT Peru is a new telco running trials in Peru.

Although the vast majority of these trials are taking place in the developing markets, the promise of OpenRAN can also help address rural connectivity issues in more developed markets. Vodafone and O2 in the UK are two telcos in the UK making use of OpenRAN to fill in the pockets of poor connectivity in the more sparsely populated regions of the country. Rakuten in Japan is another telco driving forward, though this is one telco not inhibited by the crutch of legacy networks.

The issue which does remain is whether the performance of these decoupled products can match that of the status quo. OpenRAN might be exciting but the likes of Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei have been honing their own solutions for close to a decade. It might be some time before this embryonic technology can match up, but while telcos are facing up to the enormous bill to deploy 5G and full-fibre networks, any proposals to save a bit of cash here and there will certainly be appreciated.

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