• Telefónica putting money where mouth is on commitment to fostering an open, multi‑vendor environment.
  • TIP‑based collaboration translates to commercial opportunities for Altiostar.

Telefónica boosts open RAN cred with Altiostar investment

Telefónica boosts open RAN cred with Altiostar investment

Source: Mark Basarab / Unsplash

Telefónica Group ramped up efforts to develop interoperable open radio access network (RAN) solutions based on open RAN principles by forming a new strategic partnership with existing partner Altiostar, and selecting the vendor as its “open RAN partner of choice”.

The Group plans to invest an undisclosed amount in the US‑based open virtualised RAN (vRAN) specialist via corporate venture vehicle Telefónica Innovation Ventures (TIV), and said it will become a full member of a new technology advisory committee that Altiostar is setting up, alongside other investors.

Telefónica has been working with Altiostar within the context of its call for suppliers to help it advance the disaggregation of hardware and software in future optical IP networking and RAN solutions, as highlighted by the Group’s work with the Facebook‑backed Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

For example, Telefónica and Vodafone selected Altiostar, as well as Mavenir and Parallel Wireless, to produce interoperable RAN solutions within the context of the OpenRAN Project Group at TIP (Telefónicawatch, #128 and #130). In a release in February 2019, Attilio Zani, Executive Director at TIP, said Altiostar and Parallel Wireless had been selected to take part in Telefónica OpenRAN trials in Argentina, Colombia, and Peru. David del Val, Telefónica I+D Chief Executive, and Board member of TIP, recently noted that the trials were up and running.

Telefónica and Altiostar were early members of the O‑RAN Alliance, which is writing specifications to support more open, interoperable networks (Telefónicawatch, #128). According to LightReading, the two initiatives were recently described as “complementary” by a Vodafone spokesperson.

Enrique Blanco, Global Chief Technology and Information Officer (GCTIO) at Telefónica, was emphatic in his support for Altiostar playing a role in the development of a next‑generation open RAN that will be web‑scalable, and offer “unprecedented capacity and performance”.

The GCTIO said that Altiostar is “one of the fundamental pieces required to expand our network capabilities and make them available to our customers at the speed of software”.

Blanco banking on openness for 5G

Telefónica has been enthusiastically promoting efforts to challenge the established RAN modus operandi of traditional vendors, and expand the broader RAN ecosystem.

Blanco also spoke of the importance of open RAN during the recent Global Mobile Broadband Forum organised by Huawei Technologies in Zurich, Switzerland. According to reports, Blanco described the shift in network design as “extraordinarily ambitious” and said that 5G networks must be programmable.

“[Programmable networks are] a must because we need to monitor huge growth in the data capabilities for our customers. This network needs to be open and we need to get all these capabilities.

— Blanco.

He also reiterated commitment to a multi‑vendor strategy, and achieving a standalone 5G core network that is open, cloud-native, and extremely resilient.

Telefónica backing bolsters existing Altiostar support

Support from a global tier-one telco such as Telefónica provides a major fillip for Altiostar, which first came to attention through its work with Japan‑based Rakuten Mobile Network to build a fully virtualised, cloud-based 4G network. Earlier in 2019, Rakuten took part in a $114m (€103m) funding round for Altiostar. Other investors include Cisco Systems, Qualcomm Ventures, and Tech Mahindra.

In addition to Rakuten, Telefónica and TIP, Altiostar has been and/or is working with operators such as Deutsche Telekom, GCI in Alaska, SK Telecom of Korea, and Italy’s TIM.