NTIA Awards $42M in O-RAN R&D Grant

The NTIA on Monday bestowed a $42 million grant as the final award from the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund’s first Notice of Funding Opportunity. Additional awards will come after NTIA issues the next Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).

This award will fund a project by a consortium of U.S. carriers – including AT&T and Verizon – as well as foreign carriers, universities and equipment suppliers to establish a testing, evaluation and R&D center in the Dallas Technology Corridor and a satellite facility in the Washington, D.C. area. The center will focus testing on network performance, interoperability, security, and facilitate research into new trialing methods.

By investing in open, interoperable networks, NTIA says it’s laying the foundation for a stronger, more secure and more resilient telecommunications supply chain. The transition to open networks will enable the U.S. and its global partners to lead the next generation of wireless innovation. 

“5G is a dynamic technology, but today’s market for wireless equipment is static and highly consolidated,” says NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “Our Wireless Innovation Fund aims to change that. With today’s grant, we have awarded more than $140 million to foster an open, resilient and secure mobile ecosystem.”

AT&T and Verizon will lead the project. Japanese telecommunications company NTT DOCOMO and India’s Reliance Jio are unfunded, founding members of the consortium. The University of Texas at Dallas will help with the maintenance of the Dallas-area center, while Virginia Tech, Northeastern University, Iowa State University and Rutgers University will provide neutral laboratory support.

AT&T SVP Network CTO Yigal Elbaz said, “Together, the group will break ground in testing and evaluation of Open RAN products, which will help operators feel confident that these products will work together at scale.”

Verizon EVP/President Global Network and Technology Joe Russo said: “The transition to Open RAN has the potential to bring many benefits in terms of deployment flexibility, faster innovation in an open environment, and greater service options by increasing the opportunity for new entrants to provide competitive and advanced solutions. The work resulting from this grant will drive the evolution of multi-vendor O-RAN capabilities to a level of reliability and performance our customers have come to expect. More competition, more innovation, exceptional performance, and increased supplier diversity will all be net benefits to operators and customers.”

The funding totals $42 million for the Acceleration of Compatibility and Commercialization for Open RAN Deployments project (ACCoRD). Suppliers for ACCoRD include Microsoft, Nokia, Radisys, Airspan, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Rakuten, Samsung, Mavenir, VMWare, RedHat, Wind River, Ciena, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Amdocs, Keysight, and VIAVI.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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