August 31, 2022 | By Abel Mayal

When the US and UK banned Huawei from their domestic networks, they solved one problem but created another. Both countries still risked being left overly reliant on a small number of suppliers. The UK’s answer was to launch its 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, a £250 million project which committed to supporting Open RAN technology. 

Recently, the UK Government announced that £22 million of that funding will go towards an Open RAN ‘high-demand density environment’ trial. Meanwhile, the US Congress passed the CHIPS Act, which will provide $280 billion to expand domestic semiconductor manufacturing and R&D, and includes $1.5 billion for the development of Open RAN architecture.  

The high levels of funding and firmer commitments from the two governments signal an increasing sign of confidence in Open RAN. It is now inevitable that Open RAN solutions will play a crucial role in the development and rollout of future networks. It is especially encouraging to see governments prioritising the rollout of Open RAN networks in urban areas, where the latest technologies can be demonstrated in the most challenging environments. Not to forget, this will not be the first urban deployment of Open RAN. Rakuten Mobile in Japan launched a fully virtualized network in April 2021, providing commercial 4G/5G services to more than 5 million people. 

While Open RAN brings a raft of benefits to telecoms operators, businesses, and consumers, the transatlantic embrace of Open RAN is particularly significant for three reasons. 

First, it will increase the security of critical national infrastructure. After freezing out Huawei, a telecoms equipment monopoly (or, indeed, duopoly) cannot be allowed to take hold. Open RAN will increase vendor diversity, boosting competition and the resilience of both countries’ networks. 

Second, it will reduce operating costs. At Airspan, our Open RAN products can reduce capital and operating expenditure for telcos by up to 40% (link). This leaves more cash to invest in infrastructure that benefits everyone, like cloud and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), as well as researching and developing the technologies of tomorrow. 

Third, accelerating the development and rollout of future networks will help accelerate progress towards net zero. Analysts believe that 5G will play a fundamental role in helping MNOs achieve their emission reduction targets. Vodafone has found that 5G and the Internet of Things could help cut carbon dioxide emissions in the UK by 17.4 million tonnes per year. Every sector has its role to play in creating a sustainable future, and for telecoms companies, Open RAN is part of the answer (link). 

Following years of industry work to develop groundbreaking interoperable products, major world leaders now accept that Open RAN is the most secure, efficient, and competitive way to meet their connectivity targets. The recent commitments in the US and UK to large amounts of funding for the development of Open RAN only stand to benefit governments, their people, and the planet.