ETSI and O-RAN Alliance release first Open RAN specification

Tech

Open RAN has taken a step closer to becoming an official standard, with European standardization body ETSI giving an O-RAN specification its seal of approval.

Specifically we’re talking about ‘O-RAN Fronthaul Control, User and Synchronization Plane Specification v7.02’, which can now also be referred to by the equally catchy moniker of ETSI TS 103 859. If you want a sense of how incredibly arcane and detailed the tech specification game is, just click on that hyperlink and immerse yourself in over 300 pages of extreme geekery. In relative layman’s terms, it refers to the thing that connects the radio unit to the distributed unit.

“Recognition of O-RAN specifications by ETSI is another major step in enabling broad adoption of Open RAN,” said Claire Chauvin, O-RAN Board member and Strategy Architecture and Standardization Director at Orange. “Having the O-RAN specification available as an ETSI specification adds further endorsement desired by commercial and public sector entities in a range of countries.”

“The O-RAN specification has been approved as an ETSI specification after a thorough review and requested revisions by our experts,” said Dominique Everaere, Chair of the ETSI Mobile Standards Group Technical Committee. “When specifications go through the ETSI PAS process, they need to comply with the ETSI rules, and the ETSI committee in charge of these specifications works with the organization to ensure they align with existing procedures for approval as ETSI standards.”

The ultimate standardizer of telecoms tech is supposed to be the 3GPP but it has largely let Open RAN develop independently. For it to be a technology that works the same regardless of location or vendor Open RAN presumably needs to be standardized eventually. That will probably require the setting of precedents such as this one, which other regional bodies can take a look at and approve or otherwise.

While most of the spending on Open RAN kit seems to be coming from the US and East Asia, Europe seems determined to take a lead in defining it. Last year the continent’s biggest operators made a vague bid for ‘leadership’ of some kind, which seems to have been heeded by ETSI, at least. The O-RAN Alliance seems to be the biggest collection of industry stakeholders and endorsements like this would appear to strengthen its position further.

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