‘Open RAN’: The New Tech Poised To Level The Cell Service Playing Field

It's been a priority of both the Trump and Biden administrations. ‘Open RAN’: The New Tech Poised To Level The Cell Service Playing Field Shutterstock

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Improving America’s cell service infrastructure is a rare issue on which Republicans and Democrats can agree.

The Trump administration launched a push toward the creation of such a technological framework, and now the Biden administration is carrying that vision forward.

What’s it all about?

Known as “open radio access networks” (Open RAN for short), this technology is meant to provide more customization within an industry that has been fragmented and globalized since cell phones became a ubiquitous part of modern culture.

Broadly speaking, it’s a shot across the bow in response to international companies like China’s Huawei, Sweden’s Ericsson, and Finland’s Nokia, each of which have their own dedicated operating systems.

Apple might also fall into that group, whereas Google’s Android platform is more in line with what proponents of Open RAN have in mind. If successful, it will allow different manufacturers to utilize the same technology and, as proponents in the U.S. hope, restore America’s competitive edge in this globally significant market.

Full steam ahead

President Joe Biden has been an advocate for this technology for some time, and now the White House is working with domestic entities like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration as well as nations like India, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines to establish a functional and cohesive system.

Some notable steps in that direction include:

  • A $1.5 billion research and testing program within the NTIA
  • A $500 million State Department plan for Open RAN development
  • A new testing center announced this week in the Dallas area

Not everyone is on board, however, including a spokesperson for the EU Commission, who warned: “Open RAN can lead to a number of security risks of 5G networks and expand the attack surface in the radio access part of the network.”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee February 13th, 2024
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