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Google moves further into telco, HPE automates the RAN and DISH ponders 5G deadline

The Linux Foundation, the open source community, said it has formed project Nephio in partnership with Google Cloud and telecoms “leaders”.

Nephio’s mission is “to deliver carrier-grade, simple, open, Kubernetes-based cloud native intent automation and common automation templates that materially simplify the deployment and management of multi-vendor cloud infrastructure and network functions across large scale edge deployments.”

Nephio is all about cloud-native network automation. Airtel, Bell Canada, Elisa, Equinix, Jio, Orange, Rakuten Mobile, TIM, TELUS, Vapor IO, Virgin Media O2 and WindTRE are involved from the operator community. The network function, service and infrastructure vendors who are participating are Aarna Networks, Arm, Casa Systems, DZS, Ericsson, F5, Intel, Juniper, Mavenir, Nokia, Parallel Wireless and VMware.

They plan to “enable faster onboarding of network functions to production including provisioning of underlying cloud infrastructure with a true cloud native approach, and [reduce] costs of adoption of cloud and network infrastructure.”

Google Cloud acquires MobiledgeX

After the Nephio announcement, Google Cloud went on to acquire MobiledgeX, which was set up by Deutsche Telekom (DT) back in 2018 to develop the trusted control plane and common orchestration layer for edge computing assets. The technology was deployed by SK Telecom, Telefónica and Singtel as well as DT. After little publicity for a year, due to pandemic lockdowns according to CEO Jason Hoffman, in April last year, MobiledgeX said it supported Google’s telecom-friendly Anthos, announced by Google in December 2020.

No financial information was released about the transaction, but Hoffman is not moving to Google Cloud having left MobiledgeX a week or so before the announcement.

This acquisition and Google Cloud’s involvement Nephio demonstrate how the hyperscaler is striving to appeal to operators in the throes of transforming their networks to cloud native. Caroline Chappell, Research Director, Cloud, at Analysys Mason told telecomTV, “Google is gunning for Red Hat’s position in the network cloud domain while Azure and AWS are taking on VMware with their proprietary stances.”

She pointed out that Google is being more successful at attracting operators “compared with the other big cloud providers,” in multi-domain partnerships, which she said “are five to10 year multi-billion-dollar deals that transform multiple aspects of an operator’s business, for example, across IT, network and enterprise services domains.” Bell Canada, Jio, Ooredoo and Telenor all signed up with Google in the second half of last year, joining the likes of Telecom Italia and XL Axiata.

AT&T’s big contract with Azure seems to be the exception that proves the rule.

HPE strives to speed up RAN deployment

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) wants to accelerate RAN deployments with automation and simpler management for Open RAN and traditional RAN techs. On 21 April, it announced Open RAN Automation, a service management and orchestration solution to provide multi-vendor management and automation for any RAN. The press note said, “This cloud-native solution, delivered as a service, offers zero-touch management…and is a key part of the HPE Open RAN Solution Stack and has been validated and optimized  the HPE ProLiant DL110 Gen10 Plus – Telco server”.

At the press briefing, Tom Craig, VP and GM, HPE Communications Technology Group, “The winners will be those who embrace automation and commit to a disaggregated, open, multi-vendor future.”

The new solution is based on HPE’s OSS and AI and machine learning technologies and orchestrates the lifecycle of both virtual Distributed Units (vDUs) and virtual Centralized Units (vCUs), so operators can dynamically configure radio frequencies and optimise their use of radio access resources and spectrum. At the press briefing, HPE executives stressed that few RAN environments are greenfield, and the most pressing need is to manage multi-technology RANs as efficiently and simply as possible.

DISH in danger of missing 5G deadline?

DISH Network must provide 20% of the US population with 5G coverage by 14 June 2022 with the first 5G Standalone network in the US and 70% by June 2023, in line with the agreements it made with regulators in 2019.

DISH’s 5G deadline looks like it’s going to be a close-run thing. In February, Charlie Ergen, DISH’s chair was reported saying, “We’re six months behind where we thought we’d be. It’s my fault. We just didn’t maybe anticipate that we would have to do as much on the technical side.”

DISH’s open RAN network design means its build out costs should be much lower. It spent $1 billion in network CapEx last year, including cell towers and cloud-based software-driven operations which will rise to $2.5 billion this year. In comparison, T-Mobile spent $2.9 billion in three months on its 5G network including real estate, equipment, and 5G upgrades in the final quarter of 2021.

Delays could prove eye-wateringly expensive though: DISH pledged it would voluntarily pay fines of up to $2.2 billion for missed deadlines.

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