The O-RAN Alliance just expanded its operator membership and created a board of directors. And it appears that AT&T will be playing a key role in the group.
But keeping track of this confusing alphabet soup of RANs isn’t easy. Last February, the xRAN Forum announced it was merging with the C-RAN Alliance to form the O-RAN Alliance, which stands for Open RAN. SDxCentral talked with Sachin Katti, a professor at Stanford University who headed the xRAN Forum, and he said that the C-RAN Alliance was formed by China Mobile to look at virtualizing the RAN. The two groups realized they were conducting complementary work and decided to merge.
AT&T also played a role in creating the O-RAN Alliance back in February. The operator said at the time that it was involved in creating the O-RAN Alliance and was working with operators China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Docomo, and Orange.
In April, the xRAN Forum announced its first specification related to fronthaul. When asked why it was still the xRAN Forum and not the O-RAN Alliance, a spokesperson said that the name change and the merger were still happening but wouldn’t be finalized until June.
Now comes word that the O-RAN Alliance has formed a board of directors, and Andrew Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs, will be the chair and Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP of strategy and technology innovation at Deutsche Telekom, will be operations officer. The O-RAN Alliance also said that Bharti Airtel, China Telecom, KT, Singtel, SK Telecom, Telefonica, and Telstra, were approved as new members. Those members join AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Docomo, and Orange.
Interestingly, the release didn’t mention some of the original xRAN Forum members such as T-Mobile, Verizon, KDDI, Sprint, and Jio, so it’s unclear whether those xRAN Forum members are part of this O-RAN Alliance. Verizon was involved in creating the xRAN Forum’s fronthaul spec and chaired that working group. However, the operator has also been working separately with Intel and Nokia on a virtualized RAN (vRAN) architecture.
For its part, the O-RAN Alliance said that it is open to all operators globally that want to drive openness into the RAN.
Besides announcing its board leadership, the O-RAN Alliance also created seven working groups that will look at use cases and architecture, radio intelligent controller, fronthaul, stack reference design, cloudification and orchestration, resource information and control, and white box hardware.
Virtualizing the RAN is getting a lot of attention from operators because it promises to lower costs and makes it possible for them to add new capabilities more quickly. Besides the O-RAN Alliance, there are other groups also working on the virtualization of the RAN including the Telecom Infra Project’s OpenRAN Group and Cisco’s Open vRAN initiative.