AT&T, Verizon To Lead New Open RAN Consortium with $42M in Fed Funding and an R&D Facility in Dallas

The Open RAN Testing, Evaluation and R&D Center will be located in the Dallas area with a satellite location near Washington, D.C. The center will test and evaluate Open RAN hardware and software—which could help lead to the adoption of a more flexible, interoperable wireless infrastructure.

Dallas-based AT&T is joining Verizon to lead a new industry consortium to test and evaluate Open RAN hardware and software, fueled by a $42.3 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

AT&T called the funding “a key step toward the federal government’s goal of catalyzing the adoption of interoperable infrastructure in wireless networks here and abroad.”

R&D center to be located in Dallas area

The effort is being called the Acceleration of Compatibility and Commercialization for Open RAN Deployments Consortium (ACCoRD). It 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, AT&T said.

Besides boosting the availability of testing, the consortium aims to identify new methods of assessing innovations and technologies that aren’t yet covered by current best practices.

A more flexible approach to wireless infrastructure

Open RAN—short for Open Radio Access Network—is a more flexible approach to wireless infrastructure than the industry has deployed for decades. According to The Verge, the $42.3 million federal grant will “further the development of the 5G Open RAN (O-RAN) standard that would allow wireless providers to mix and match cellular hardware and software, opening up a bigger market for third-party equipment that’s cheaper and interoperable.”

Robert Soni, VP of RAN technology at AT&T, wrote in a blog post that his company is “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.”

Consortium includes top industry players—and academics as close as at UTD

“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,” Soni added in his blog post. “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.

The consortium will be leaning on the expertise of academic members as well, including experts from the University of Texas at Dallas, Virginia Tech, Northeastern University, Iowa State University, Rutgers University, and Idaho National Labs.

News follows AT&T’s announcement of Open RAN collaboration with Ericsson

News of the consortium and R&D facility in Dallas follows AT&T’s December announcement of a new collaboration with Ericsson “to deploy, at scale,” Open RAN products at AT&T cell sites. In addition to increasing the AT&T network’s efficiency and agility, the Ericsson agreement “creates a foundation that enables us to deploy hardware and software components from alternative vendors without undermining the performance of our already existing network,” AT&T said in December.

As a result of its December announcement involving Ericsson, AT&T said it expects to move 70% of its wireless traffic to open infrastructure by 2026.

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