A new report, published by five of the leading European telecommunications companies, and based on findings from independent analyst house, Analysys Mason, called upon policymakers, EU Member States, and industry stakeholders to collaborate and urgently prioritise Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN). This will ensure that Europe continues to play a leading role in 5G, and in the future, in 6G.
Entitled ‘Building an Open RAN ecosystem for Europe’, the report shows that Europe currently has just 13 major Open RAN players, versus 57 for the rest of the world. However, according to a release by telecom Orange, many European players are at an early stage of development and have not yet secured commercial Open RAN contracts, whilst vendors from other regions are moving ahead.
Open RAN “essential” for Europe’s 5G target
Open, intelligent, virtualised and fully interoperable RAN (enabling more effective and efficient mobile communications) is essential if Europe is to meet its target of 5G for all by 2030. It will help drive stronger, more resilient supply chains and platforms, as well as promote digital autonomy and continued technology leadership. New open and disaggregated architectures, software and hardware such as Open RAN, give operators the flexibility to extend 5G to more users in a cost-effective, secure and energy efficient way. This flexibility will stimulate greater innovation across industries in areas such as telemedicine and smart factories.
However, if the EU is to maintain its competitiveness, technology leadership and resilience, decisive action and collaboration is needed now. If not, Europe risks falling behind North America and Asia in the development and deployment of next-generation networks, according to the report.
“Policy in the U.S. and Japan, among other countries, already strongly backs Open RAN. The U.S. has earmarked more than US$1.5 bn to fund Open RAN, and Japan offers financial incentives and tax benefits for companies that develop, supply, and deploy related equipment. While there are some positive examples at national level, for example Germany, today, the European Union as a whole is falling woefully short of providing the necessary support for Open RAN, putting at risk the future viability of a European ecosystem able to compete with other regions in the world, ” said Caroline Gabriel, Research Director at Analysys Mason.
The report concludes that Europe needs to include Open RAN as a pillar in its Industrial Policy and Digital Compass Strategy, and underpin it with the right policy framework. This will have a positive impact on other vital technology areas such as cloud, software, and chipsets to significantly contribute to the wider technology ambitions of a digital Europe.