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UK government publishes new Open RAN principles

DCMS has published a set of Open RAN principles as part of its efforts to enhance competition and innovation within the telecoms supply chain.

Following the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy and through the advice of the Telecoms Supply Chain Advisory Council, DCMS has set out how it aims to “drive change by accelerating the development and deployment of open interface architectures, such as Open RAN”.

The document states that, to achieve the goal of resilient public networks through supply chain diversification, Open RAN is an important element of these diversification efforts. Industry and like-minded public bodies should adopt the following principles:

  • Open disaggregation, allowing elements of the RAN to be sourced from different suppliers and implemented in new ways.
  • Standards-based compliance, allowing all suppliers to test solutions against standards in an open, neutral environment.
  • Demonstrated interoperability, ensuring disaggregated elements work together as a fully functional system — at a minimum matching the performance and security of current solutions.
  • Implementation neutrality, allowing suppliers to innovate and differentiate on the features and performance of their products.

Approaches that suppliers and network providers could adopt which will assist in achieving these principles include:

  • avoid fragmentation of specifications and splits, initially focusing on the smallest possible number of options for disaggregating networks
  • prioritisation and optimisation of the requirements and priorities of mobile operators and other network builders
  • an open, transparent and inclusive approach, compliant with WTO rules, to developing standards and protecting intellectual property, allowing fair access by new players and facilitating external scrutiny
  • assurance of compliance with open standards via neutral testing environments
  • transparency of market information, in particular transparency of access to relevant essential intellectual property

While DCMS states the principles document is not intended to be the definitive answer to the question ‘What is Open RAN?’ – it does lay out government’s view of the foundations for an “effective and functioning” telecoms supply market, and it does provide a fundamental definition:

Open RAN is the disaggregation of the radio access network into parts which are interconnected by open, standards-based, interoperable interfaces, using open, standards-based protocols for communicating over those interfaces. As a result, networks can be built from parts from different vendors.

Further details are also provided on government’s security and resilience aims, the need for a continuous pipeline of ongoing innovation, and how important ensuring there are the right conditions for a proliferation of vendors of both telecoms networks and of the components and subcomponents which make them up, enabling a more open, dynamic and efficient market for telecom technology.

The Open RAN principles document is by no means comprehensive, but certainly a helpful steer for the UK telecoms market as we await further details and spending plans as part of the DCMS Open Networks Programme. This programme has so far included competitions like FRANC, the SONIC LabNeutrORAN and the live bid for a UK Telecoms Innovation Network, designed as a “front door” for R&D opportunities and enquiries.

Want to find out more about techUK's Diversifying Telecoms campaign? Head to our homepage.


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