AT&T's Soni: The Next Step in Bringing Our Open RAN Vision to Life

Via AT&T

Feb 13, 2024

Two months ago, we unveiled plans to deploy Open RAN products across our wireless network – today, we’ve got more news that will help drive that vision forward.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced a new grant to support testing and evaluation of Open RAN hardware and software – a key step toward the federal government’s goal of catalyzing the adoption of interoperable infrastructure in wireless networks here and abroad. Along with Verizon, we’re excited to be a leader in a new and diverse industry consortium that received an award of $42.3 million to advance this important work.

Evaluating how different products integrate with one another is a crucial part of facilitating the more diverse vendor ecosystem that many in the industry and government envision. Operators need to have confidence that different vendors’ products will work together at scale before adding them to their network. And this testing is especially important to us, since it creates an opportunity to build on our work with Ericsson and discuss with a broader group the technical details of building an Open RAN platform that will enable us to incorporate products from alternative vendors in the future.  

The best way to assess integration across the industry is to go big – which is why AT&T and Verizon came together to assemble a broad consortium that includes not only other major network operators like Jio and Docomo but also a wide range of vendors. Beyond traditional suppliers like Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung, this consortium will include alternative vendors like Fujitsu, Mavenir, Dell Technologies, Intel, Radisys, Rakuten, Red Hat, VMWare by Broadcom, and Wind River Systems – all potential additions to an open and interoperable radio access network.

This effort, which we are calling the Acceleration of Compatibility and Commercialization for Open RAN Deployments Consortium (ACCoRD), will be centered at an Open RAN Testing, Evaluation and R&D Center in the Dallas area, with a satellite location in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to boosting the availability of testing, the group will identify new methods of assessing innovations and technologies not covered by current best practices. And we will evaluate a wide range of factors, including performance and security – all while taking advantage of the expertise of academic members of our consortium, including University of Texas at Dallas, Virginia Tech, Northeastern University, Iowa State University, Rutgers University, and Idaho National Labs.

Certainly, we’re excited about how this research will bolster our own efforts to build Open RAN into our network at scale. But we also see it as an important step to advance Open RAN generally, since it will secure input and perspective from more than one wireless provider and help ensure the lessons are available to operators around the world.

We’ve been talking about the benefits of a more flexible approach to wireless infrastructure for years, and we look forward to getting even further into the nuts and bolts as part of this testing. We hope to have additional updates soon on this important work.

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