Vendors including Mavenir, Fujitsu, and Rakuten have been selected to compete for a share of the $3 million prize pool

For a number of years now, the US has been a huge proponent of Open RAN technology, arguing that open interfaces and interoperable subsystems will be key features of mobile networks of the future, ensuring greater vendor diversity and increased security.

Despite major breakthroughs in the technology in recent years, however, Open RAN remains in its infancy, with much work to be done to see adoption take place on a national or international scale.

This is one of the major reasons why, earlier this year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) announced the launch of its 5G Challenge, a two-part competition aimed at accelerating the development of multi-vendor solutions and their wider ecosystem. 

Launched in collaboration with the Department of Defence – hardly surprising given their focus on the security of national networks – the Challenge will allow selected contestants to demonstrate the capabilities of their technology in a neutral host lab, verifying interoperability and measuring performance.

Winners, as selected by a judging panel, will be awarded part of the $3 million prize pool.

Potential contestants have been submitting white papers outlining their technology’s viability for the first of these two competitions, the Preliminary Event: RAN Subsystem Interoperability contest, since April, and today the NTIA has announced its selected participants

The contestants were asked to submit software and hardware solutions for one or more of three 5G subsystems: the Central Unit (CU), the Distributed Unit (DU), and the Radio Unit (RU).

The list of selected participants for each subsystem can be seen below and contains many of the usual suspects when it comes to Open RAN: 

• CU: Capgemini Engineering; Mavenir Systems, Inc.; Rakutan; Signal System Management

• DU: Radisys Corp.; Rakuten; Signal System Management

• RU: Fujitsu Network Communications; Mavenir Systems, Inc. 

These contestants’ solutions will first compete in a fully emulated integration environment, with those successful moving on to an actual 5G operating environment. Prizes will be awarded for both the emulation and network integration stages. 

According to timelines published on the government’s website, the winners will be published in early October. 

After this Preliminary Event concludes, focus will be switched to the Final Event. Set to take place in 2023, the prize pool for this second competition has yet to be announced, but the NTIA suggest this will be “much larger” than the current Event. 


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