O-RAN Alliance finds a way to reassure Nokia

It only took the O-RAN Alliance a couple of weeks to tweak its procedures such that Nokia isn’t so scared of US vindictiveness.

Scott Bicheno

September 14, 2021

3 Min Read
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It only took the O-RAN Alliance a couple of weeks to tweak its procedures such that Nokia isn’t so scared of US vindictiveness.

In a short announcement the O-RAN Alliance, a community of OpenRAN stakeholders, said it has changed its documents and procedures in response to concerns from some members that their participation may in some way transgress one of the many restrictions the US has thrown around like confetti over the past few years. One of these members was Nokia, which decided a couple of weeks ago to bail on the whole thing rather than risk antagonising Uncle Sam by hanging out with Chinese people.

“O-RAN is an open and collaborative global alliance operating in a way that promotes transparency and participation of our member companies in the development and adoption of global open specifications and standards,” said Andre Fuetsch, Chairman of the O-RAN Alliance and CTO of AT&T, in the press release announcing the tweaks.

As if by magic Nokia is now falling over itself to stress its unwavering commitment to O-RAN. Except for that major bit of wavering you just did, though, right? “For a short time, we had to pause our technical activity with the alliance while important legal issues were ironed out,” wrote Tommi Uitto, President of Nokia’s Mobile Networks division. “While much has been written in recent days about that decision, I want to re-iterate something that has not – and will not – change: Nokia is fully committed to O-RAN and a believer in the potential of O-RAN.”

Alright Tommi, calm down, we’re just doing our job. “It is for that reason that we welcome the encouraging news that the O-RAN Alliance has announced changes to its O-RAN participation documents and procedures, ensuring technical activities can continue in compliance with U.S. law, added Uitto. “This important announcement enables us to get back to the exciting work we had to pause.”

It looks like Nokia was surprised by the coverage and, presumably, industry response when the news of its OpenRAN panic attack broke. What’s not at all clear from either announcement is what changes were necessary for Nokia’s commitment to stop wavering. Maybe there weren’t any at all and they just had a word with the US authorities to get them to back off a bit. The US, of course, is very excited about OpenRAN from a vendor plurality perspective, so it has an interest in letting the work continue.

Light Reading notes this probably isn’t the end of the matter so long as the O-RAN Alliance isn’t designated as a standards body. Nobody at the 3GPP seems to be having palpitations about chatting to Chinese contemporaries when they’re thrashing out the next mobile standard, after all. So long as the US continues to shoot from the hip when it comes to the international telecoms rules of engagement the O-RAN Alliance and its members will continue to fear arbitrary punishment for trying to develop a technology the US is supposed to be supporting. What a mess.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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