Government Announces Dallas Testing Center for 5G Open RAN

The Biden administration has awarded another $42 million to advance development of the 5G Open RAN standard (O-RAN) that has become known as the “Huawei killer.” Administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the form of a grant, the funding will be used to establish a Dallas testing center and companion satellite facility in the Washington DC area for evaluation and R&D in O-RAN, a standard designed to facilitate interoperability of cellular hardware and software among different wireless providers. The goal is to bring more equipment manufacturers into a market dominated by China’s Huawei.

Huawei’s role in the market has come to be perceived as a national security risk, and the Biden administration allocated more than $1.5 billion to reengineer some basic telecommunications technology to allow American businesses and foreign allies back into the equipment manufacturing race.

The funding grant was awarded to a consortium of U.S. carriers, foreign carriers, universities and equipment suppliers focused on testing network performance and security using O-RAN.

“Testing and evaluation facilities will make industry-standard testing more accessible to new market players — both in the U.S. and in partner nations — and encourage greater collaboration across different industries,” per the NTIA announcement.

Or, as The Verge put it, “to prove the standard’s viability as a way to head off Huawei’s steady cruise toward a global cellular network hardware monopoly.”

The Washington Post describes O-RAN as the U.S. government’s “anointed champion to try to unseat Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies from its throne as the largest supplier of the ‘pipes’ that carry the world’s Internet data and phone calls.”

AT&T and Verizon are the driving forces behind the Acceleration of Compatibility and Commercialization for Open RAN Deployments Consortium (ACCoRD), whose participants also include Broadcom, Dell, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Rakuten and Samsung.

Verizon issued a statement by EVP and president of global network and technology Joe Russo that says the grant will facilitate “multi-vendor O-RAN capabilities,” enabling Verizon and others to “drive adoption across the industry at scale.”

Robert Soni, VP of O-RAN technology at AT&T, provides more detail about ACCoRD membership in a blog post noting that in addition to testing, the new facilities will allow the group to “identify new methods of assessing innovations and technologies not covered by current best practices.”

Light Reading calls O-RAN “a work in progress” that the cellular industry has been testing since 2020 and expresses skepticism that it will be deployed anytime soon.

Open RAN Explained: All You Need to Know and More, Rakuten, 5/3/23
Samsung, Verizon and Keysight Advance Commercial Open RAN with Extensive Conformance and Interoperability Testing, Samsung, 2/13/24
Samsung and Vodafone Complete First Data Call with AMD Processors on an Open RAN Network, Samsung, 2/13/24

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