FierceWireless executive lunches at MWC are always good value and this year proved no exception. ‘The Road to 5G’ session kicked off with Verizon’s Chief Network Engineer Nicola Palmer on impressively bullish form, as she talked up her firm’s aggressive densification programme on route to 5G.  The contrast with Luke Ibbetson’s steady-as-you-go characterisation of Vodafone’s 5G plans was stark and nicely encapsulated the very different 5G deployment strategies that are starting to emerge in Europe and North America.

However, the most intriguing takeaway from the event came from an enigmatic exchange between Fierce’s Monica Alleven and AT&T’s Gordon Mansfield. Why had AT&T put its not inconsiderable weight behind a new organisation called the ORAN Alliance? It was a question Vodafone’s Luke Ibbetson was also interested in. Mansfield didn’t really say very much, but the implications of this rather low key announcement are potentially interesting.

The new organisation has emerged from the C-RAN and XRAN open source initiatives. But it’s the pedigree of the sponsors that sparked our interest. Any organisation with AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO, and Orange at its launch is likely to have a pretty serious (and very global) agenda. And one that aims to lead ‘the industry towards open, interoperable interfaces, [and] RAN virtualization’ while maximising ‘the use of common-off-the-shelf hardware and merchant silicon and minimizing proprietary hardware’ will surely pique the interest – if not the anxiety – of global OEMs. It also creates an interesting counter balance to the Telecom Infra Project which has been gaining scale for some time and recently championing slicing.

Cutting cost and fragmentation from 5G can only be a positive development. We’ll be watching ORAN’s progress with interest. A component of competitive advantage in the fast moving wireless industry comes through the development of these alliances and how they influence the standards, we continually monitor these initiatives and advise our clients on the most useful eco-systems to help develop their strategies.

So – what’s the bottom line from this year’s MWC? An industry in change – nothing new there – it’s always in change. An industry looking at the bottom line with increased focus – absolutely! With end users, operators, vendors, regulators and governments all looking to benefit from new technologies and particularly 5G, all eyes are on the bottom line – be that citizen socio economic benefits or shareholder dividends. And that’s where Real Wireless can help – with our techno economic modelling tool kit and strategic lens we can help translate those new acronyms and technologies into strategies, business plans, investments, deployments, services and ultimately – that all important bottom line.

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