AT&T Paves the Way for Open RAN Expansion in US with Ericsson Partnership

By Greg Tavarez December 19, 2023

Traditional closed RAN systems are characterized by a proprietary and vertically integrated model where a few major vendors offer end-to-end solutions. These systems create a vendor lock-in scenario, limiting operators' options (in terms of flexibility) to choose components from different suppliers and impeding competition and innovation. Operators relying on closed RAN systems are typically constrained by a single vendor for their entire RAN ecosystem, restricting upgrade options and timelines.

Therefore, the telecommunications industry is exploring more open and interoperable alternatives (like Open RAN) to overcome these limitations and promote a dynamic and competitive landscape.

Open RAN technology, with its open interfaces, allows for the integration of equipment from various suppliers, promoting competition and driving innovation. This flexibility translates to improved network performance, cost efficiency and faster deployment of new technologies like 5G.

To enhance its wireless network in North America and expand the most reliable 5G network, AT&T, a U.S. telecommunications giant, is poised to advance the adoption of Open RAN in the country through a strategic partnership with Ericsson, a provider of network infrastructure.

AT&T (News - Alert)'s ambitious plan aims to have 70% of its wireless network traffic flowing across Open RAN-capable platforms by late 2026.

The initial phase of the collaboration will see the deployment of fully integrated Open RAN sites in 2024, built upon a joint effort by Ericsson (News - Alert) and Fujitsu. This collaboration leverages Ericsson's expertise in radio equipment and software with Fujitsu's strength in cloud and virtualization technologies.

Beyond the initial partnership, AT&T's vision extends beyond a single vendor. Beginning in 2025, the company plans to broaden its Open RAN environment by incorporating equipment and solutions from a diverse range of suppliers such as Corning (News - Alert) Inc., Dell and Intel. This multi-vendor approach fosters a healthy competitive landscape, driving down costs and spurring further innovation in the industry.

"AT&T is taking the lead in open platform sourcing in our wireless network," declared Chris Sambar, Executive Vice President of AT&T Network. "By embracing Open RAN, we are fostering a more diversified and innovative ecosystem that will ultimately benefit both our customers and the telecommunications industry as a whole."

Ericsson will leverage its 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, to manufacture 5G equipment in this partnership. The facility, opened in 2020, embodies Industry 4.0 principles, boasting high automation, exceptional efficiency and 100% renewable energy operation.

The Lewisville factory recently completed an expansion, increasing its production floor to over 107,000 square feet. This advanced facility churns out next-generation 5G and advanced antenna system radios for Ericsson's U.S. customers, contributing to the nation's 5G infrastructure.

Ericsson recently complied with the Build America, Buy America provisions of the infrastructure law, and the Lewisville factory's products bear the Made in USA label, a testament to Ericsson's commitment to domestic manufacturing and adherence to the Act's regulations.

“High-performance and differentiated networks will be the foundation for the next step in digitalization,” said Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson. “Through this shift, and with open interfaces and open APIs, the industry will see new performance-based business models, creating new ways for operators to monetize the network.”

By embracing Open RAN, AT&T is laying the groundwork for a more diverse, efficient and innovative wireless future for the U.S. This decisive move could potentially reshape the global telecommunications landscape, encouraging wider adoption of Open RAN principles and accelerating the innovation of next-generation networks worldwide.

Edited by Alex Passett
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