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U.S. Window of Opportunity for Open Radio Access Networks is Closing, Say Panelists

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Photo of Diane Rinaldo from Open RAN Policy Coalition

February 24, 2021—Some experts suggest that the future of wireless connectivity is in open radio access networks, but the window of opportunity for the U.S. to lead the way in this endeavor is closing.

Radio access networks comprise physical pieces of equipment – such as antennae or other hardware – that facilitates communication between user equipment and a network.

Open RAN is a movement to standardize those components for more companies to compete—as opposed to concentrating those components in a handful of large companies that own proprietary components—to increase competition and deliver better products, prices, and services.

Flynn Rico-Johnson, legislative director in the office of Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., was a panelist for a discussion about open RAN at the Connect X policy summit on Tuesday.

He said for the U.S. to remain competitive in this effort, the federal government would need to take funding development and deployment of open RAN more seriously.

“We want to see [this funding] in the president’s budget—we think we’ve got a great shot for an infrastructure package.”

Rico-Johnson added that while the U.S. needs to begin to take these steps, other countries have already been moving in the right direction.

“Europe is moving forward—Germany has made clear investment goals in Open RAN,” he said. “If the U.S. doesn’t make aggressive moves early, we’ll fall behind.”

This sentiment was shared by Rico-Johnson’s fellow panelist Diane Rinaldo, the executive director for the Open RAN Policy Coalition, which is made up of 48 members including Verizon, Nvidia, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and many other companies at the forefront of technology and innovation.

Diane Rinaldo was a guest on the Broadband Breakfast Live Online event in October 2020 about national security and trusted partners. See “Global Concern About 5G Security Has Become a Bipartisan Cause, Say Broadband Breakfast Panelists,” Broadband Breakfast, November 17, 2020

“Time is of the essence,” Rinaldo said. “If we want to incorporate Open RAN [into our infrastructure], we need to act.”

Rinaldo argued that Open RAN is going to be the future of RAN regardless of what action the U.S. decides to take, but it will be the decisions that U.S. policy makers make in the upcoming months and years that determine whether the U.S. will be leading the pack or trailing behind it.

“A big part of the conversation is international cooperation and collaboration,” Rinaldo said. “President Biden has said he wants to build international collaboration around the world.”

She explained that while working to deploy ORAN technology in the U.S. and in other first-world countries is an avenue that the current administration could exploit, the U.S. should also look to developing nations that they can assist in modernizing their broadband infrastructure.

Thierry Maupilé, executive vice president and chief of strategy and product management at Altiostar, said that as a technological hegemon, it is expected for the U.S. to pioneer ORAN. Headded if the U.S. wants to be able to compete with foreign countries, it needs to be able to implement ORAN technology.

“[The U.S. needs] to create an environment platform, which is going to make it much easier, much more attractive for investment to come in,” Maupilé said. “And that’s one of the major benefits that we see with this Open RAN.”

Reporter Ben Kahn is a graduate of University of Baltimore and the National Journalism Center. His work has appeared in Broadband Breakfast, Washington Jewish Week, and The Center Square, among other publications. He primarily covers Big Tech and spectrum policy.

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5G

CES 2022: 5G, Aviation Crisis a Problem of Federal Coordination, Observers Say

The hope is coordination problems will be relieved when the Senate confirms NTIA head.

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John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy and acting head of U.S. public affairs at Samsung

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2022 – The possible near collision of 5G signals and aircraft altimeters emerged out of a lack of coordination on the federal government’s part to bring all relevant information to the Federal Communications Commission before it auctioned off the spectrum that has now been put on hold for safety precautions, observers said Thursday.

This week, Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay the rollout of their 5G services using the C-band spectrum surrounding airports after the Federal Aviation Administration raised the alarm for months about possible interference of the wireless signals with aircraft, which use their own radios to safely land planes.

But the issue could’ve been resolved back in 2020, when the FCC proposed to repurpose a portion of the band to allow for wireless use, some said on a panel discussing 5G Thursday in Las Vegas.

“After the FCC had adopted the rules, auctioned off the spectrum, raised over $80 billion and deployment began and then additional information that apparently had not been brought to the FCC before comes over…that’s not good for the country,” said John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy and acting head of U.S. public affairs at Samsung, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

“The time to have that information be disclosed and discussed and analyzed is when the FCC is conducting the rulemaking,” Godfrey said, adding the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration should, as federal telecom rep, be spearheading coordination efforts between the FAA and the FCC on telecommunications matters.

“I think it’s their job as the leaders of telecom policy in the administration to facilitate bringing the full federal government to the table in a timely manner,” Godfrey added.

Asad Ramzanali, legislative director for Democratic California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, said that the fallout of the aviation issue has shown that, “Looking backwards, I do think this is a failure. This is a failure in government to be able to coordinate at the right time…when there’s a process, those impacted should be participating — that is the role of the NTIA.”

NTIA head confirmation ‘should be a priority’

And the hope is that such coordination issues can be averted in the future with the confirmation of a permanent head of the NTIA, said Ramzanali. President Joe Biden nominated Alan Davidson in October to be the next permanent head of the agency, which has had temporary figures fill in the role since the resignation in May 2019 of the last full-time head, David Redl.

“That should be a priority,” Ramzanali said of pushing Davidson through. “The NTIA is doling out $42.5 billion of that $65 billion [from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act]. The NTIA is supposed to deal with those types of issues. They have brilliant people there, but this is the kind of leadership that they should be in the middle of.

“And this isn’t a recent NTIA thing,” Ramzanali added. “This has lasted many years, especially in the prior administration where the NTIA wasn’t doing this part of it — coordinating with other agencies.

“I’m hopeful with Alan Davidson presumably getting in soon that we won’t see that kind of issue.”

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5G

CES 2022: Educating Consumers About 5G Will Encourage Wider Adoption

Currently, consumers are not being provided the information they need to make the leap, a consultant said.

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Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2021 – Educating consumers about 5G is necessary to achieving wider adoption in its upcoming deployment in the United States.

At Wednesday’s CES “Path to A Better 5G World” session, industry leaders discussed how 5G will change the digital landscape by offering new experiences for businesses and consumers.

Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting, said that companies should educate consumers about the benefits of 5G.

“Some consumers don’t even know 5G exists,” she said. “They believe faster is better,” but said that consumers don’t know about 5G’s wider applications. “Consumers should want to have [5G] because of how innovators and entrepreneurs will use the technology.”

Slang’s research shows that consumers are only willing to pay up to $5 more per month for 5G service. “It’s not about the hype, it’s about the usability,” Witkowski added. She noted that people are living longer and older Americans are growing old without the necessary digital skills to thrive in our new ecosystem.

“A child born today has a one in two chance of living till 100,” she said.  Educating consumers about 5G’s benefits can help the elderly prepare to participate in the revolution.

Witkowski also said closed hardware software ecosystems, sometimes referred to as “walled gardens,” prevent consumers from discovering new experiences.

“The really large organizations have a hard time innovating. Big corporations are built to scale. The ability to reach out to entrepreneurs to access creative thinking is important,” Witkowski added. “The pandemic changed a lot [for technology companies]. They are going to have to embrace something they don’t normally embrace,” like the fact that another company may be better positioned to create solutions.

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Expert Opinion

Kevin Ross: The Time is Now to Expand Internet Access with Fixed Wireless Broadband at Gigabit Speeds

New approaches must leapfrog the slow pace of extending fiber to the home and high costs of 5G and satellite.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Kevin Ross, founder and CEO of WeLink

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our behaviors in bandwidth consumption and driven enormous demand for reliable, high-speed internet access. Even before the pandemic spiked, high school and college students nationwide experienced this need for speed and continue to face this challenge today.

Broadband access also remains a critical need for millions of employees seeking to increase their productivity while working from home. According to ABI Research, “many business are allowing remote working for some of their employees after the pandemic, which will boost the need for home broadband services even further.” Fast, reliable broadband access is critical for file sharing, Zoom meetings, streaming content and other bandwidth-intensive applications. This business imperative will continue in the post-COVID-19 era as the home is now the new office.

High-speed uplink connectivity is another growing concern for at-home workers, not only for web-based conferencing applications but also for sharing large files and rapid uploads. This need puts increasing pressure on upload links.

The solution?

Symmetrical broadband connections, enabling equally fast uplink and download speeds.

With symmetrical access, there is no “speed discrimination” based on the direction of data traffic. End users receive the same network speed for both uploads and downloads. Businesses and work-at-home employees who rely on cloud applications, fast data transfers and non-stop, high-speed connectivity ultimately will benefit from balanced, symmetrical internet connections.

However, a major issue with most broadband services is the prevalence of asymmetrical internet access speeds, reaching hundreds of megabits per second on the downlink but much slower on the uplink. As a result, upload speeds are significantly slower than download speeds, throttling business operations and employee productivity with unnecessarily slow upload speeds. According to Speedtest, the median download speed for fixed U.S. fixed broadband subscribers in October 2021 was 131.16 Mbps, while median upload speed was 19.18 Mbps.

To help close the digital divide, we need innovative, new approaches to broadband deployment that leapfrog the slow pace of extending fiber to the home or the high cost of current conventional 5G wireless and satellite internet options.

Fixed wireless access networks, enabled by new mmWave based FWA technologies, provide an ultra-high-speed alternative to fixed-line broadband service. Although wireless internet service providers have traditionally focused on rural areas, some are deploying services in metro areas using next-generation FWA networks based on ultra-fast millimeter wave technology. FWA has been around for years but with the rollout of mmWave alternatives, FWA networks are commercially viable and speed-competitive with traditional fiber deployments.

In fact, mmWave networks are so fast they are dubbed wireless fiber, bypassing miles of underground fiber and cable infrastructure with faster, easier deployment while delivering multi-gigabit uplink and downlink speeds. The rapid rise of mmWave networks is a game-changer for WISPs and FWA networks, enabling ultra-high-speed broadband services at symmetrical gigabit speeds to residential subscribers and enterprise customers and providing a competitive alternative to fixed-line DSL, cable and fiber as well as emerging satellite broadband access.

Given the complexities of America’s broadband access needs, we’ll see an optimal mix of fiber, mmWave FWA wireless and satellite deployments based on infrastructure requirements. FWA service, for example, makes sense for denser urban and suburban environments where it can provide high-speed wireless broadband to homes and businesses at up to gigabit speeds, connecting the unconnected and expanding and improving broadband access.

This alternate FWA approach is much quicker and less expensive to deploy than traditional fiber-to-the-home or conventional 5G, and unlike Low earth orbit satellite, it has sufficient capacity to deliver gigabit service with significant penetration in densely populated areas. With the steady expansion of mmWave wireless networks, gigabit-speed FWA service will also make symmetrical connectivity a must-have feature and market imperative.

Now and in the future, mmWave-based FWA networks will help drive digital transformation in homes and offices and give at-home workers greater freedom of choice. This trend is even more important today as the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the balance of work and school from home.

Kevin Ross is founder and CEO of WeLink, a rapidly-growing, next-generation broadband provider. Kevin is pioneering the use of mmWave technologies and small cell micro-pop network architectures, combined with a crowdsourced site acquisition model, that reduces small cell deployment costs and time to market by greater than a magnitude of order. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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