The US government has allocated $42 million to advance the 5G Open RAN or O-RAN standard, enabling wireless providers to mix and match hardware and software, fostering a more competitive and interoperable market.
The move targets Huawei’s global dominance over the hardware used to run cellular networks.
Huawei is a Chinese tech giant that is the world’s largest provider of 5G networks and a leader in sales of telecommunications equipment.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant will establish a Dallas O-RAN testing center to challenge Huawei’s cellular network hardware monopoly.
Last year, the Council on Foreign Relationships published a paper discussing insiders’ fears that Huawei’s dominance over 5G hardware could lead to a “digital iron curtain” with too much control in the hands of China.
The US began restricting the use of Huawei’s devices in 2017 and since 2022 has banned the use altogether, leaving a void in the 5G landscape that many hope that O-RAN will help to fill.
Verizon and AT&T formed the ACCoRD consortium to drive standard adoption, including industry giants like Ericsson and Samsung.
Rakuten pioneered O-RAN in 2020, emphasizing cost-effective network expansion.
Dish’s Project Genesis aims to rival major carriers, leveraging O-RAN despite initial network challenges.
The $42 million grant, albeit modest, signifies a crucial step in proving O-RAN’s viability, aligning with Ericsson and AT&T’s substantial commitments to O-RAN compatibility, bolstering its momentum and industry acceptance.
This collective effort aims to disrupt Huawei’s stronghold and foster a more diverse, innovative telecommunications landscape.
With concerted efforts and substantial investments, O-RAN is a formidable contender in the quest for a more open, competitive, and cost-effective telecommunications ecosystem.