Leading telcos urge Europe to act now to build Open RAN ecosystem

Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Vodafone issue five-point clarion call for building an Open RAN ecosystem for Europe to ensure that the continent continues to play a leading role in 5G and, eventually, 6G

Europe’s best opportunity to defend and grow its place in the global 5G and 6G industry lies with building a broad and deep open radio access network (Open RAN) ecosystem, according to a report from five of the leading European telecommunications companies. The report has called on policymakers, EU member states and industry stakeholders to collaborate and urgently prioritise Open RAN.

Building an Open RAN ecosystem for Europe – published by Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, and Vodafone – was based on findings from independent TMT management consultants, Analysys Mason.

Its principal point is that open, intelligent, virtualised and fully interoperable RAN, delivering and enabling more effective and efficient mobile communications, is essential if Europe is to meet its target of 5G for all by 2030. The report said that such actions will help to drive stronger, more resilient supply chains and platforms, as well as promote digital autonomy and continued technology leadership.

The telcos said that, especially during a time when connectivity enables all parts of society and the economy to benefit from digital services, it is vital to have powerful and secure networks underpinned by strong supply chains.

The European Commission’s 5G supply market trends report from August 2021 sets two overarching goals: develop an open and secure 5G ecosystem, and promote European digital autonomy and technological sovereignty by supporting collaboration between new and traditional vendors and a strong approach towards open specifications in the 5G ecosystem.

They added that new open and disaggregated architectures, software and hardware such as Open RAN give operators the flexibility to extend 5G to more users in a cost-effective, secure and energy-efficient way. This flexibility will stimulate greater innovation across industries in areas such as telemedicine and smart factories.

However, they warn that if the EU is to maintain its competitiveness, technology leadership and resilience, decisive action and collaboration is needed now. If not, Europe risks falling behind North America and Asia in the development and deployment of next-generation networks, according to the report.

Indeed, the report highlighted the fact that Europe currently has 13 major Open RAN players, compared with 57 for the rest of the world. However, many European players are at an early stage of development and have not yet secured commercial Open RAN contracts, while suppliers from other regions are moving ahead.

“Policy in the US and Japan, among other countries, already strongly backs Open RAN. The US has earmarked more than $1.5bn to fund Open RAN, and Japan offers financial incentives and tax benefits for companies which develop, supply and deploy related equipment,” said Analysys Mason research director Caroline Gabriel.

“While there are some positive examples at national level – for example, Germany – today, the European Union as a whole is falling woefully short of providing the necessary support for Open RAN, putting at risk the future viability of a European ecosystem able to compete with other regions in the world.”

The paper revealed important strengths and gaps that EU policymakers will need to consider, and presented a set of policy recommendations for Europe to maintain a lead in the development and deployment of next-generation mobile networks.

According to the operators, this requires policymakers to adopt five actions: ensure high-level political support for Open RAN; create a European roadmap for network innovation; incentivise and support EU Open RAN development; promote European leadership in O-RAN standardisation; and engage in international partnerships.

They concluded that if the right conditions are met, it is possible to nurture a European Open RAN ecosystem that safeguards Europe’s competitiveness and leadership in network technology and contributes to Europe’s digital sovereignty.

Read more about Open RAN

  • Technology giant Dell continues with its advancement into the world of telecoms with Edge and 5G and Open RAN services designed to automate the deployment and management of open, cloud-native network infrastructure to fast-track opportunities.
  • IT services provider NTT teams with cloud-native network software provider Mavenir in global 5G Open RAN collaboration to meet the needs of operators around the world as they build or transition to open and virtualised 5G networks.
  • Experts say Open RAN deployment is on the rise as Open RAN revenue surges due to the industry shifts toward the open model. This means enterprises should consider the long-term benefits of switching vendors.

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