Telefónica has become the latest European operator to join an alliance of telcos exploring open radio access network technology.
The O-RAN Alliance was formed at February's Mobile World Congress, bringing together the C-RAN Alliance and X-RAN Forum.
Its aim is to help the industry in its move towards virtualised RAN and more of an open and interoperable approach to cellular networks.
The Alliance, which was co-founded by AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO and Orange, is encouraging operators to embrace off-the-shelf hardware in favour of proprietary solutions.
Enrique Blanco, Group CTIO at Telefónica, said: “For Telefónica, the creation of O-RAN represents a crucial step in the right direction. O-RAN will lead all aspects of a future-proof RAN design having interoperability, modularity and openness as key elements.
"Network density and complexity and the need for E2E digitalization of our future telco architectures demand smarter solutions for the radio network, including cost-effective open designs. O-RAN is the right vehicle to make this happen.”
Telefónica joined Bharti Airtel, China Telecom, KT, Singtel, SK Telecom and Telstra as the Alliance's new members.
A meeting held at this week's Mobile World Congress Shanghai formally put the Alliance to work, with the operators agreeing on a strategy for the months ahead.
Seven working groups were launched focusing on areas including use cases and architecture, a range of interfaces from near real-time to open fronthaul, cloudification and orchestration, and white box hardware.
Andre Fuetsch, President of AT&T Labs, was elected as the Board's Chairman, while Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation at Deutsche Telekom, was voted Operations Officer.
Jinsung Choi said: “To realise the full potential of 5G, it is essential that we evolve the full end-to-end system architecture to be more flexible, agile and efficient."