Before the COVID-19 crisis, the Altiostar management team was scheduled to attend an FCC public event on 5G as well as the White House Summit on 5G, both of which have been postponed. Both of these meetings were called to discuss how the U.S. can stay competitive in 5G technology.
Some argue that U.S. companies have fallen behind in owning the technology to build next-generation 5G networks. But we are not behind. In fact, the nature of 5G equipment market has changed significantly and the U.S. is in the best position to innovate faster and better.
The argument that U.S. companies are behind usually focuses on the fact that Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson – the largest telecom equipment vendors in the world by sales – are based in China or Europe. Combined, these companies have a significant majority of 4G equipment market share and have spent billions to upgrade their proprietary wireless equipment to 5G.
This argument continues by acknowledging that the technology is shifting from the proprietary systems of these legacy industry leaders to open architecture and virtualized systems that are based on software from companies like Altiostar running on off-the-shelf, general-purpose servers and using radios with open interfaces. In other words, a disassembled solution that allows the mobile network operator to pick and choose each aspect of the network from a different vendor, if desired.
The legacy RAN vendors acknowledge this evolution, but say it will take nearly a decade to deliver the performance that is needed in a 5G network.
This argument is untrue, however, as demonstrated by production networks delivering high-speed 4G services today. The biggest example is Rakuten Mobile which had its official launch this month. Built from the ground up with software and open systems, the Rakuten network is delivering high quality services as well as very low consumer prices driven by the lower network costs.
But even before the Rakuten network, the virtualized mobile network model was working in North America with commercial early adopters in Alaska and Mexico. In fact, Altiostar has been involved in validation tests with all 25 tier-one mobile network operators.
This new paradigm that is based on open interfaces and virtualization represents a new business model and a new supply chain that is good for U.S. competitiveness, but also good for the industry in general. Over the past 15 years, the telecommunications equipment industry has consolidated significantly leaving too much power in the hands of too few companies.
The market for open virtualized solutions is much broader and healthier with more than 30 companies today giving mobile network operators much more choice. The market should stay more competitive because of the open standards and open interface work of organizations like O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP). Open standards will help to ensure that mobile network operators always will be able to integrate technology from best-of-breed players.
5G represents a brand new way of building networks that fits well with what U.S. companies are good at – innovation in silicon, software and cloud. In fact the pressure put on the bottom lines of mobile network operators by the COVID-19 pandemic could also hasten this architectural transition as mobile network operators look for networks that have better economics.
The network is becoming an open, global platform that will attract application developers for faster service deployment and new revenue models. The network is evolving to be more software centric to support this evolution.
U.S. companies are competitive in 5G and are growing more so every day. The Open RAN revolution has started, and by innovating faster and better, the U.S. is taking the lead in 5G and the next Gs.