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Middle East’s big players ink OpenRAN partnership

Some of the biggest telecoms operators in the Middle East have come together to form the industry’s latest OpenRAN alliance.

Etisalat, STC, Zain, Mobily and Du have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to signal their joint commitment to rolling out OpenRAN technologies and their intention to help one another on the journey.

The goals of the grouping, which does not have a formal title, are to push forward the implementation of OpenRAN in their existing networks, and to share knowledge and expertise. The five have formally noted that they intend to deploy OpenRAN across their footprints, although they did not add any timescale to the deal…publicly, at least.

The partnership “will open immense opportunities” for telcos and the whole telecoms ecosystem, they said, making available interoperable, competitive and commercial grade OpenRAN products, as well as building a framework for the exchange of best practices and technical outcomes.

The telcos also outlined the usual benefits of OpenRAN, such as advanced network capabilities, faster time to market, and the arrival of solutions backed by artificial intelligence (AI) and so forth.

They chose their words pretty carefully when it came to what is arguably one of the biggest benefits of moving to Open RAN – the vendor diversification it enables.

The partnership deal and OpenRAN rollout commitment provides “an opportunity to traditional RAN vendors to adopt open interfaces, software and hardware to build more agile and flexible mobile networks in the 5G and 4G era,” while also enabling them to “support new entrants with innovative solutions and achieve cost efficiencies in RAN deployments.”

Reading between the lines, there doesn’t appear to be too much for the big vendors to worry about from this partnership.

Naturally, the telcos all took their turn to provide an executive quote on how delighted they are to be working together and how the partnership will help boost innovation in the Middle East region as a whole.

“Today’s announcement signals the entry into a new era of operators’ collaboration in Middle East to accelerate the development of Open Network technologies, which helps in diversifying our strategic technology growth,” said Haitham Alfaraj, Senior Vice President of Technology and Operations at STC Group, to share but one.

On a more serious note, the alliance is positive news for the Open RAN movement. Etisalat has been a relative vocal proponent of the technology for some time – earlier this year it inked a deal to use the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) to accelerate its adoption of OpenRAN – and now it is bringing its peers along with it.


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