The FCC wants to talk about Open RAN

The Federal Communications Commission is considering opening up a “formal conversation” on how it can support development and deployment of Open Radio Access Network technology.

At the commission’s March 17 meeting, members will vote on a notice of inquiry on Open RAN that will seek public comment on “the current status of Open RAN development and deployment, whether and how the FCC might foster its success, and how to support competitiveness and new entrant access to this emerging market.”

“Open RAN has emerged as one promising path to drive 5G security and innovation in the United States,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “With this inquiry, we will start to compile a record about how we can secure our vulnerable supply chains once and for all, and revitalize the nation’s 5G leadership and innovation.”

Discussions around Open RAN have been fueled by supply chain security concerns related to China and how to maintain U.S. technological leadership in the face of China’s rapid and massive-scale deployments of 5G. The FCC also held a virtual Open RAN Forum last September with discussions around the technology, including participants from Qualcomm, Intel, AT&T, Mavenir, Nokia, Parallel Wireless, Verizon and the Open RAN Policy Coalition, which was formed last May to advocate for the technological approach.

Over the new few years, Open RAN worldwide revenues are expected to grow at double-digit rates, according to a recent forecast from Dell’Oro Group. The analyst firm anticipates that cumulative Open RAN investments – including hardware, software, and firmware, but not services — will near $10 billion by 2025.

“The conversation and the overall attitude towards Open RAN has clearly changed over the past six months,” said Stefan Pongratz, VP and analyst with the Dell’Oro Group. “It is no longer a question if Open RAN will happen, and the question now is more on the timing and the scope.”

The forecast estimates that Open RAN will account for more than 10% of the overall Radio Access Network market by 2025, which Dell’Oro said was reflective of “healthy traction in multiple regions.”

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