Orange unveils its very own OpenRAN lab

French operator group Orange is the latest telco to open a facility devoted to working out whether OpenRAN is a waste of time or not.

Earlier this year Vodafone unveiled a similar effort in the UK and the Orange one is, inevitably, in France, Orange Gardens in Châtillon to be precise. Of course Orange is sure the new technology that promises to open up the ecosystem of vendors involved in the radio access network is a great idea, otherwise it wouldn’t be bothering with this, but we don’t yet know for sure.

So the new Open RAN Integration Center will invite all stakeholders in the new tech to turn up and see if their respective bits of kit can place nice with each other. The main interest operators have in OpenRAN is to give them more choice, and thus negotiating power, when it comes to the procurement of RAN gear. The geopolitics around Chinese kit vendors also make it desirable to introduce more competition to what has effectively become a duopoly in many countries.

“With the creation of an OpenRAN Integration Center, open to our partners worldwide, we want to accelerate the development of an open, intelligent, cloud-based RAN and create a rich OpenRAN ecosystem in Europe,” said Michaël Trabbia, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Orange. “From 2025 onwards, our ambition is to deploy only Open RAN equipment across Europe.”

That’s a fairly ambitious schedule, considering how little OpenRAN there currently is in the wild, so we can expect this lab and others like it to be fairly busy over the next few years. Among the vendors to have already announced they will use the lab are Nokia, Samsung and Intel. Conspicuous by their absence are Ericsson and any other chip vendor, adding to the suspicion that OpenRAN might not end up being as open as hoped.

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