Five Middle East operators sign joint open RAN agreement

Five network operators in the Middle East signed on Sunday a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide support and deployment of open RAN technology in their future infrastructure rollouts.

Etisalat Group, Saudi Telecom Company (stc), Zain Group, Mobily – the Saudi operator part-owned by Etisalat- and du announced in a joint statement  their aim to “deploy Open RAN across their footprint, providing an opportunity to traditional RAN vendors to adopt open interfaces, software and hardware to build more agile and flexible mobile networks in the 5G and 4G era.”

The open RAN technology supports interoperation between vendors’ equipment. The main goal for using open RAN is to have an interoperability standard for RAN elements such as non-proprietary white box hardware and software from different vendors. Network operators that opt for RAN elements with standard interfaces can avoid being stuck with one vendor’s proprietary hardware and software.

The collaboration will present vast opportunities for operators and telecoms ecosystem with the availability of interoperable, competitive, and commercial-grade open RAN products, building a framework to exchange best practices and technical outcomes, the statement explained.

The operators will focus on introducing software capabilities in the open RAN environment that will support different technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Middle East operators to come together to promote the development of an open technology that will help to enhance the flexibility and efficiency of our networks,” said Hatem Bamatraf, Etisalat Group CTO.

From his side, Nawaf Al Gharabally, Zain Group’s chief technology officer considered “the innovative initiative by like-minded and visionary regional mobile operators is truly inspirational as it brings multiple benefits to all our stakeholders and further enhances the Middle East telecom sector’s position on the ICT world map.”

“Driving innovation and open RAN deployment is the shared responsibility of every telco operator,” du CTO Saleem Alblooshi added.

It’s worth noting that the five operators will not starting from scratch, as Etisalat followed its recent collaboration with Japan-based Rakuten Mobile, to deploy an Open RAN network in Afghanistan in partnership with Parallel Wireless, Intel and Supermicro.