Nokia has suspended its work with the O-RAN Alliance amid concerns that the involvement of Chinese firms on the US non-entity list could expose the company to potential penalties.
The GSMA-affiliated O-RAN Alliance is one of the industry’s largest working groups devoted to Open RAN technology - a vendor-neutral approach to Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies such as antennas, masts, and small cells.
This approach contrasts with traditional methods of procurement which have seen operators deploy integrated cell sites comprising radio, hardware, and software from a single supplier. This approach makes it difficult to mix and match innovations and poses a significant barrier to entry for other vendors.
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Although Nokia, along with Ericsson and Huawei, has been one of the major players in the RAN market, it acknowledges that operators want to be able to mix and match innovations in the 5G era.
5G has increased the appetite for a more flexible model, with operators rearchitecting their networks with cloud cores and software-defined networking (SDN) so they can be more agile in terms of operations and in rolling out new services.
Indeed, Nokia has committed to integrating open interfaces into its AirScale radio platform, and both it and Ericsson have joined the O-RAN Alliance, which has nearly 200 members.
This figure includes three Chinese firms that have been targeted with US restrictions due to national security concerns and perceived links with China’s military. Fearful of potential recriminations from Washington, Nokia has decided it needs more time to determine the potential legal implications of continued involvement.
“Nokia's commitment to O-RAN and the O-RAN Alliance of which we were the first major vendor to join, remains strong,” a Nokia spokesperson told TechRadar Pro. “At this stage we are simply pausing technical activity with the Alliance as some participants have been added to the US entities list and it is prudent for us to allow the Alliance time to analyze and come to a resolution.”
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