“We’d like to see more big wins,” says Mavenir’s SVP for business development, John Baker.

Mavenir is a US telecoms software company, formed in 2017, that is having success based on the new Open RAN telecoms standard. It has won contracts with operators including Telefónica, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, and Dish.

But Baker’s comment goes to the heart of the issue with Open RAN. The technology promotes a new breed of telecoms kit that allows providers to ‘mix and match’ solutions from multiple vendors, which is impossible with proprietary network equipment.

Despite this, many feel the incumbent telecoms vendors, such as Nokia and Ericsson, are set to capture this new market too.

Baker is optimistic that won’t happen, but he remains cautious: “I think the change is happening. It’s not a revolution it’s an evolution. Also, with all due respect, a lot of the companies that are coming into this space don’t necessarily have the scale or balance sheet to do a lot of these large-scale type deployments that the likes of Nokia and Ericsson can do,” he says.

UK tower

How real is Open RAN?

Operators are keen to point out new technology, but not everyone is convinced that Open RAN has fully arrived

Which vendors will get the big Open RAN wins was a major discussion point at Fyuz 2023, an open networking event held in Madrid in October.

That’s no surprise. The Fyuz event is hosted by the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which was founded in 2016 to promote industry-led collaboration around open networks, and also includes the Open Ran Alliance’s Open Ran Summit, and the more recent Metaverse Connectivity Summit.

Telcos are tipped to go big on Open RAN by the end of the decade and expected to invest more than $30 billion, according to Counterpoint Research. But will Open RAN deliver on its multi-vendor promise?

Waiting game

Gil Hellmann, VP for telecom solutions engineering, Wind River, suggests that the industry is playing a cautious game when approaching Open RAN deployments.

“With companies, we tend to fear the unknown,” he says. “Until we have more knowledge, we’re reluctant to move forward. We’re now seeing large-scale deployments from Verizon and Vodafone, where the data is beginning to come out and reveal the results of it.”

Munish Chhabra, head of mobility software & services, Radisysm, says that operators are sitting on the fence and want to watch the success of others first.

He notes that the integration of components has been an issue, and argues that certification and standardization should be promoted within Open RAN.

Baker agrees with Chhabra. “We’ve got to maintain open and interoperable interfaces and interfaces have got to be certified, otherwise we’ll fall into a trap where operators are saying ‘this is not interoperable,” Baker says.

Baker maintains that the diversity of Open RAN has attracted numerous vendors to the game.

Ericsson’s change of heart

Ericsson, one of the world’s biggest vendors, firmly backed the concept of Open RAN at last year's Fyuz event, despite questioning the technology until quite recently.

In 2020, the vendor issued a 14-page document suggesting that Open RAN could be a security threat.

By October, it had changed its tune: “We think it’s time to create the next chapter in our industry and define the future of telecom,” said Fredrik Jejdling, head of Ericsson’s networks business unit.

“I think it’s time for the industry to come together and shape this future. Our perspective is that we want to build a 5G network platform leveraging cloud-native technologies built on Open RAN standardized interfaces… this allows automation, more AI-driven networks, and, from a broader perspective, it addresses the revenue-generating perspective of the industry.”

Ericsson’s change of heart may have raised eyebrows in Madrid, but it is very serious about its Open RAN aspirations. It claims to have deployed more than one million radios which are hardware-ready for the next generation of open fronthaul technology.

A couple of months after Fyuz, Ericsson won a lucrative ($14 billion) five-year contract to build AT&T's Open RAN network, beating rival Nokia to the deal. Smaller vendors wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Let in more software companies

Breaking into the supposedly multi-vendor Open RAN world has been a challenge for software players too.

“To be frank, I think the whole idea of Open RAN is to get more players in,” says Shamik Mishra, CTO of connectivity at Capgemini Engineering, “We need more vendors that are going to bring in the radio network software. I think the problem is that we expected the whole product to come integrated with hardware and software.”

According to Mishra, software companies haven’t always been taken seriously enough by telecom operators.

“But if you bring in new players, you're going to have to promote the software companies who are providing your baseband software, for example. These companies may not have the muscle of the large vendors, but they will be able to perhaps be more agile or be able to adapt to new standards faster.

“People have thought that radio and baseband is hard and therefore only a few companies can do that. This is where I think the issue started. Capgemini is working with 75-plus companies who are building their own radio access software. These companies exist because there is a market for them.”


The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) is confident the industry can move forward together to overcome any hurdles.

“The problem with the CSPs adopting Open RAN is on the culture within these organizations, as it's different than what they were doing before,” says Abdel Bagegni, technical program manager of OpenRAN at TIP.

Like others at Fyuz, he believes Open RAN will take time to take off, and create the multi-vendor Nirvana.

Baker says patience will be required: “Open RAN has truly delivered on bringing in new vendors and investors into the marketplace.

“There’s always going to be a place for the big incumbents and the new entrants, and over time the market will set itself out. It’s a 10 to 15-year journey before Open RAN has truly achieved its end goal.”

Since the event, several telcos have outlined their Open RAN goals, with AT&T striking a lucrative $14 billion deal with Ericsson.

With the Mobile World Congress kicking off next week, the discussion of Open RAN looks set to be a key theme once again.