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Nokia takes another step towards embracing OpenRAN

While it might seem unusual for one of the traditional Radio Access Network (RAN) vendors to be hyping OpenRAN, this appears to be incremental evolution to make Nokia more competitive.

The sticky situation which Nokia finds itself in might be slightly exaggerated, but thanks to years of decline and some questionable technology decisions, change is a necessity. Its rivals are also embracing the OpenRAN movement, whatever that actually means, but none more so than Nokia.

“Nokia is committed to leading the open mobile future by investing in OpenRAN and Cloud RAN solutions with the aim of enabling a robust telecom ecosystem with strong network performance and security,” said Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia.

At the end of June, the network infrastructure vendor announced the upcoming release of its virtualised 5G Airscale cloud RAN portfolio, and today it is following up with another OpenRAN proclamation.

Nokia has become the first of the traditional tier one network infrastructure vendors to commit to adding open interfaces in its products, theoretically allowing customers to add network infrastructure equipment to deployments from rival vendors.

According to Gabriel Brown of Heavy Reading, this is a positive move by Nokia. Out of the three (or perhaps four) top tier network infrastructure vendors, Nokia gains the most from being disruptive and embracing new technologies; this announcement shows the firm is listening to its customers, who are increasingly vocal about the importance of open, interoperable RAN systems.

However, Brown points out that, while support for ORAN interfaces by a global vendor is positive for OpenRAN, the industry still needs to see actual interoperability. Operators can run their own interop tests across a few vendors, says Brown, but even larger operators will struggle to do this at scale on an ongoing basis.

An industry-wide approach to interoperability would be helpful, says Brown. He points to the ‘Plugfest’ programmes announced by the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and ORAN Alliance and tentatively scheduled for later ion 2020 (date currently unknown due to COVID-19) as important litmus tests of how open vendors really are.

At some point this year, the Deutsche Telekom lab in Berlin will be transformed to focus on interoperability validation of OpenRAN compliant solutions. This will be a major milestone for the OpenRAN community as, thus far, interoperability is theoretical. These trials will test the good intentions, offering certification for those who pass the test.

What is worth noting is this is a bit of an unknown for the moment. COVID-19 has delayed the tests, while TIP and the ORAN Alliance need to convince the technology companies to turn up. Those who are afraid of failure or technology might not be quite ready will avoid the test as failure could be more detrimental than success is rewarding.

For those who might be slightly sceptical of Nokia’s OpenRAN mission, the TIP and ORAN Alliance tests this year will offer much more clarity. Nokia might well be implementing systems with the intention of interoperability, but it is little more than clever marketing currently. Nokia has identified the right messaging to appeal to telecoms operators, but let’s wait until interoperability is proven.

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One comment

  1. Avatar Sarwar 08/07/2020 @ 5:59 pm

    Nokia why you can’t open your different operating system like as iPhone/android system

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