AT&T, DISH, and CableLabs Advance Americas O-RAN Alliance Testing
by Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall | August 9, 2022

For this vignette of a recent episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast, part of the 5G Factor series, analysts Ron Westfall and Shelly Kramer assess AT&T, DISH Network, and CableLabs decision to advance O-RAN Alliance testing and development across North America and its implications for the 5G ecosystem.

Their discussion highlighted:

  • AT&T and DISH conducted the O-RAN Alliance’s “PoCFest” testing initiative early in 2022 across four locations reaffirming their commitment to open RAN technology with DISH building a nationwide 5G network using open RAN from onset and AT&T forwarding its advocacy.
  • The O-RAN Alliance formed the Open Test and Integration Centers (OTIC) in the Americas using the Kyrio O-RAN Test and Integration Lab run by CableLabs to help raise its New World profile.
  • The O-RAN Alliance also launched its next Generations Research Group (nGRG) to spur 6G research efforts including high-profile participation by China Mobile.
  • In parallel, the U.S. Department of Defense is funding the Resilient and Intelligent NexG Systems (RINGS) to aid assuring North American leadership in the open RAN and 6G realms.

Ron and Shelly view the trio’s contributions to O-RAN Alliance testing in the Americas region as testament to the strategic commitment that the major operators have in making sure the 5G ecosystem attains open, intelligent, virtualized, and fully interoperable RAN technology. This aligns with the movement by the major European O-RAN Alliance operator members to enlist the European Commission in backing the O-RAN Alliance mission. The pivotal role the CableLabs Kyrio facility is playing in the Americas O-RAN Alliance testing affirms that cable operators also have a major stake in emerging RAN market outcomes. AT&T, DISH, and Cable Labs contributions help advance the O-RAN Alliance’s goal to enable a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem as well as improve the efficiency of RAN deployments and operations.

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Shelly Kramer: All right. So speaking of, let’s see, we’re going to talk a little bit about the O-RAN Alliance and what’s going on with O-RAN Alliance efforts in the United States and how AT&T and Dish and CableLabs are leading those efforts. Share with us a little bit about some of what you know, on that front, Ron.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. It’s an interesting combination. You don’t normally see cable labs in the same word-

Shelly Kramer: Yeah.

Ron Westfall: …As major operator telco operators-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Collaborating. But that is the case when it comes to Open RAN testing. As we know, Dish is a Greenfield network and they’re very much strategically committed to Open RAN.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And AT&T, amongst the major telcos, has been more proactive in supporting it at least rhetorically, but they haven’t actually done any deployments in their network to date. Although it would seem to stand a reason that they would probably be the first amongst the big three to actually get Open RAN out into the field at some point-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …In the near future. Now CableLabs, as we know, has been set up by the cable industry, dating back to the 1980s to basically test technology for the cable industry, to make sure that it’s, you know, battle-ready for actual live deployments.

And they’ve been doing a good job of it through the decades. And now they’ve been branching more into 5G connectivity and a mobile tech technology. In fact, three of them conducted what they call APAC Fest-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Across four different test areas and are now committed to opening what they’re calling their open test and integration centers in the Americas. And that will operate the Kyrio CableLabs facility. And so-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Pretty much CableLabs is playing a central role here in terms of, you know, advancing Open RAN cause, which is something that doesn’t seem that intuitive. You figured like the telcos would be-

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: …Further along in this regard, but that is not the case here. And so that is also coinciding with the fact that the O-RNA Alliance has also formed what it’s called the Next Generations Research Group to focus on 6G testing now.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: And the US Department of Defense is funding what it’s calling Resilience and Intelligent Next Systems or RINGS so that the US can maintain a competitive upper hand when it comes to 6G technology. And the reason why I’m noting this is that the O-RAN Alliance for all the good work it’s doing, it’s also has membership prominent China based mobile operator, such as China Mobile and their new 6G initiative is actually being headed by China Mobile. So this is kind of like a hedge, if you will.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Ron Westfall: While we’re still, you know, kicking the tires on 5G, it’s not too early to think about 6G more seriously and start, you know, some planning. But I think it’s definitely demonstrating, like there’s a lot of variety out there when it comes to the standards bodies and how standardized in our interoperable Open RAN technologies being advanced on a global basis.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely exciting stuff for sure. Yeah.

Ron Westfall: Yep. 5G today, 6G tomorrow.

Shelly Kramer: 5G today, 6G tomorrow. And you know, 7G right?

Ron Westfall: Right on.

About the Authors

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”

Ron is an experienced research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets. He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including software and services, infrastructure, 5G/IoT, AI/analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues. Read Full Bio.