Department of Defence wants secure but Open RANs
The US Department of Defence (DoD) has announced a collaboration with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) and the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) in search of non-proprietary 5G systems. There are cash rewards on offer for European inventors who can solve problems for business, society and the telecoms industry with 5G.
Speaking at the launch of the 5G Challenge Preliminary Event: RAN Subsystem Interoperability, Amanda Toman, Acting Principal Director of 5G-Future G explained the rationale. The aim of the competition is to expedite the development and adoption of open interfaces, interoperable components and joint contributions from multi-vendors towards an open 5G ecosystem.
“The Department is committed to supporting innovation efforts that accelerate the domestic development of 5G and Future G technologies,” said Toman, “5G is too critical a technology sector to relinquish to countries whose products and technologies are not aligned with our standards of privacy and security.”
It’s bad enough that the legacy of vendor-specific closed-source software and hardware is higher costs, stifled invention and crushed competition, according to the DoD. What’s really disturbing is that proprietary systems often make security issues difficult to detect and resolve.
The 5G Challenge aims to foster a large, vibrant and diverse vendor community dedicated to advancing 5G interoperability towards ‘true plug-and-play operation’, unleashing a new era of technological innovation based on this critical technology, said the DoD statement.
The 5G Challenge will award up to $3 million to participants who submit hardware and/or software solutions for any or all of the following 5G network subsystems, which must be compliant with the 3GPP Release 15 Standard and O-RAN Alliance Specifications for Distributed Units (DU), Central Units (CU) and Radio Units (RU). The interoperability prize is only open for applications until May 5, 2022.
Open RAN is a great idea, if only to save a lot on capital expenditure, said Danielle Royston, founder of telco could specialist TelcoDR, who sees it as potentially a ‘big threat’ to the trinity of Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia (HEN). “Everyone is testing it and experimenting,” said Royston, “but I do think it needs time and it will get better and stronger very quickly.”
Open source collaborators give the big telcos a supply chain to frighten the HENS with, forcing them to drop prices to keep their business, said Royston. That is one solution that would be welcome. “Either the telco gets the kit they want at a much lower price or, if the Open Ran actually works, they can switch and it’s cheaper,” said Royston, “either way the telcos win.”