TIM will join forces with Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, and Vodafone is supporting the development of the new technology
Last month, four European operators – Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, and Vodafone – signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which they agreed to collaborate and jointly focus on the further development of Open RAN technology.
Open RAN is the concept of building a network using vendor-neutral infrastructure, allowing operators to use interchangeable equipment from a much wider range of vendors. Advantages of Open RAN theoretically include greater customisability, network agility, and avoiding being ‘locked in’ to a single major vendor.
“This initiative is an important milestone towards a diverse, reinvigorated supplier ecosystem and the availability of carrier-grade Open RAN technology for a timely commercial deployment in Europe,” the four operators said in a joint statement last month.
However, it should be noted that the technology is still very much in its infancy and whether it can compete with the technical prowess of the likes of traditional vendors like Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei remains to be seen. Additionally, with most operators in Europe already signing equipment deals for their upcoming 5G networks, it seems that Open RAN may have already missed the boat when it comes to 5G.
Nonetheless, not to be left out, TIM has today announced that it has also signed the MoU for the development and implementation of Open RAN, becoming the fifth major European vendor to make the commitment.
“TIM’s commitment to the creation of an O-RAN ecosystem, in addition to supporting Italian companies already developing solutions for new generation mobile networks, represents a solid opportunity to ensure our country plays a leading role as a provider of technologies for the digital transformation on a European scale,” said Michele Gamberini, TIM’s CTIO. “By signing up to the MoU with the operators, TIM is reinforcing its commitment to contribute to the development of Open RAN technology in Europe.”
TIM’s addition should not come as too much of a surprise, since TIM has a long history of interest in Open RAN. The Italian operator is a board member of the O-RAN Alliance, along with AT&T, Telefónica, Verizon, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Docomo, Orange, and others, and, in early 2020, also began work on Open RAN in Brazil as part of the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project (TIP). In Italy itself, TIM has been testing Open RAN technology with Altiostar.
Speaking in an interview with Bnamericas published earlier this week, TIM’s network engineering director Marco di Costanzo said that “Open RAN is a journey” and suggested that the technology will mature over the next couple of years.
“OpenRAN is a journey. To say that Open RAN is a network ready for massive roll-out in large centers would be foolhardy. Because it still lacks maturity,” said Di Costanzo. “In 2021 we should see a larger scale Ope nRAN implementation. And in 2022–2023 the conditions will exist for this to become more relevant.”
He added that the technology may not mature too late for 5G after all, noting that “the coincidence of the maturity of Open RAN with the roll-out of 5G on a large scale, which should occur in 2022, in standalone format, is interesting”.