AT&T To Invest Up to $14B To Deploy Open RAN Wireless Network in Collaboration with Ericcson

"With this collaboration, we will open up radio access networks, drive innovation, spur competition, and connect more Americans with 5G and fiber," said AT&T's Chris Sambar.

Dallas-based AT&T has announced plans to lead the United States in commercial scale open radio access network (Open RAN) deployment in collaboration with Ericsson. Together, the companies aim to further the telecommunications industry’s efforts and help build a more robust ecosystem of network infrastructure providers and suppliers.

AT&T’s spend could approach roughly $14 billion over the five-year term of the contract with Ericsson, whose U.S. headquarters is in Plano.

“AT&T is taking the lead in open platform sourcing in our wireless network,” Chris Sambar, EVP, AT&T Network, said in a statement. “With this collaboration, we will open up radio access networks, drive innovation, spur competition, and connect more Americans with 5G and fiber. We are pleased that Ericsson shares our support for Open RAN and the possibilities this creates for American digital infrastructure.”

AT&T said its Open RAN plan is for 70% of its wireless network traffic to flow across open-capable platforms by late 2026.

The company said it expects to have fully integrated Open RAN sites operating in coordination with Ericsson and Fujitsu starting next year. AT&T said this move away from closed proprietary interfaces will enable rapid scaling and management of mixed supplier hardware at each cell site.

Beginning in 2025, AT&T plans to scale this Open RAN environment throughout its wireless network in coordination with multiple suppliers such as Corning, Dell Technologies, Ericsson, Fujitsu, and Intel.

Partnership aims to advance innovation

AT&T’s and Ericsson’s multiyear joint commitment to Open RAN deployment comes at a pivotal moment in the 5G innovation cycle, the companies said.

The move to an open, agile, programmable wireless network positions AT&T to quickly capitalize on the next generation of wireless technology and spectrum when it becomes available, the company said. These technologies will enable lower-power, sustainable networks with higher performance to deliver enhanced user experiences.

The company said that Ericsson’s open architecture will provide a foundation and springboard for developers driving innovation through open and programmable networks and bringing new suppliers into the industry, fostering modernization and competition in the U.S. wireless equipment market.

AT&T said it expects increased competition in the U.S. RAN market will result in more innovation and greater efficiencies.

Committing to Open RAN with its suppliers deploying open hardware, migrating to cloud RAN, and introducing third-party radios leads to increased flexibility in choosing equipment, lower network costs, and improved operational efficiencies, AT&T said. This cutting-edge open management approach to building the network will enable the company to continue to invest in its fast-growing broadband network.

“High-performance and differentiated networks will be the foundation for the next step in digitalization,”Ericsson President and CEO Börje Ekholm said in a statement. “I’, excited about this future and happy to see our long-term partner, AT&T, choosing Ericsson for this strategic industry shift—moving to open, cloud-based and programmable networks.”

“Through this shift, and with open interfaces and open APIs, the industry will see new performance-based business models, creating new ways for operators to monetize the network.” Ekholm added. “We’re truly proud to be partnering with AT&T in the industrialization of Open RAN and help accelerate digital transformation in the U.S.”

Ericsson’s Smart Factory in Lewisville

Ericsson will leverage its USA 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville in the manufacture of 5G equipment for this contract.

Opened in 2020, the Lewisville factory is automated and efficient, and is fully powered by renewable electricity, the company said. The Smart Factory recently completed an expansion, bringing its production floor to more than 107,000 square feet. The state-of-the-art 5G smart factory produces next generation 5G and Advanced Antenna System radios for Ericsson’s U.S. customers.

Ericsson recently became the first mobile infrastructure provider to achieve compliance with the infrastructure law’s Build America, Buy America provisions. The Lewisville factory’s products are labeled Made in America as Ericsson’s facility complies with the Build America, Buy America infrastructure laws Act.

Expanding 5G

AT&T, one of the largest infrastructure investors in the nation across both wireless and broadband fiber, said its commitment to Open RAN is a key part of its strategy to provide the seamless connectivity America needs.

With owner’s economics in both wireless and fiber, AT&T said it intends to become the largest, fastest-growing converged fiber company with a modern, competitive wireless network.

AT&T will use this new collaboration with Ericsson to enhance its wireless network in North America and expand what it calls “the most reliable 5G network.”

The expected spend under the Ericsson contract is below what AT&T said it expects to spend for wireless capital expenditure over the next five years.

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