Should the FCC oversee open RAN for the sake of national security?
The Federal Communications Commission held a ground-breaking, marathon virtual event Sept 14, hosting numerous stakeholders in the wireless ecosystem to discuss open radio access networks (RANs). The main impetus for the event was to promote open RAN technologies for 5G as an alternative to RAN equipment from the Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE. Currently, the choices for telecom equipment are fairly limited to the big vendors Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and Huawei. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Huawei is the largest vendor, and the company has benefitted from “the Chinese Communist Party’s subsidies.” But he said Huawei’s equipment puts US national security at risk because Chinese intelligence agencies can compel Huawei to divulge sensitive information from networks.
The conversation got particularly interesting when it touched on whether the US government should subsidize open RAN innovation. Morgan Kurk, CTO with CommScope, said in order for open RAN to be successful, governments should “put their money where their mouth is” and have “taxpayer dollars required to be part of an ORAN-compliant network, to start this cycle going.” He said it is a very expensive proposition to develop these new open RAN technologies, and “if you are going to have relatively small market share for years, that makes it challenging to have the return on investment that you need.” Charles Mathias, associate bureau chief of the Wireless Bureau at the FCC, said Kurk’s comments were interesting “because a lot of the time at the FCC we hear people say ‘Government, keep out of our business,’ and what you have described is a little bit of tension.”
Should the FCC oversee open RAN for the sake of national security? (Fierce) FCC Hopes O-RAN Will Fill Huawei Void: Dish, AT&T Offer O-RAN Lessons Learned (telecompetitor) Chairman Pai at the FCC Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks Commissioner Starks Remarks at Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks Comm. O'Rielly Remarks at FCC's Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks Commissioner Rosenworcel Remarks on Taking the Open Road 5G