Germany: 300 million euros in government support for Open RAN

Germany wants to invest a little more in the future. This is evident, among other things, in the recently announced financial support for Open RAN. With a total of 300 million euros, companies in particular are to be equipped for the future.

Investment in different projects

But what is Open RAN anyway? It is a special mobile communications standard that is not yet really suitable for mass use. In order to develop it further and to test it within the framework of trial runs, the federal government has now provided 31 million euros in funding. This involves funding two pilot projects and one research project. In the coming years, the government would then like to see a total of 300 million euros made available. This was announced by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure in a public announcement. Open RAN is not only intended to create a stable and fast standard for the industry. On top of that, politicians are thinking about the future. Sooner or later, they will have to find ways to make themselves independent of China’s well-known technology companies. At present, there is still too much reliance on corporations like Huawei. For example, the BMVI said it was aiming to:

“to support the development of its own independent manufacturing industry”

Technology is still in its infancy

You don’t have to be surprised if you’ve never heard of Open RAN. Rather, you’ll be familiar with terms like 4G and 5G. The goal of Open RAN is first and foremost to save hardware. Instead of having to use chips from Huawei & Co., software is to take over the functions of a wireless network in combination with standard servers. If this succeeds, the advantages would be enormous. Not only does it save a lot of money. On top of that, it makes you independent of hardware suppliers from abroad. However, since Open RAN cannot be easily integrated into existing networks, the advantage is not yet attractive for large traditional providers such as Deutsche Telekom and their “network users.

The situation is different for companies that are in the process of building their own networks. One notable example is 1&1. Introducing Open RAN in existing networks involves an immense technical effort. At present, it would be far too early for a nationwide switch to a new mobile communications standard anyway. Too many users are still using 2G or 3G or 4G or 5G. Only when the older technology in the form of 2G and 3G has been put to bed can we talk about a nationwide rollout of Open RAN. After all, only then will needed resources be freed up again.

The standard of tomorrow?

But of course, mobile operators are also thinking about tomorrow. Accordingly, Open RAN is already seen as a potential standard of the future. However, companies are not wasting much thought on the new technology at present. After all, it will still take some time before Open RAN really grows out of its infancy. But tests are already taking place. For example, the potential mobile communications standard of tomorrow is already being tested in selected regions. And this is where the federal government’s expanded funding comes in.

In the future, such model regions are to be expanded. Deutsche Telekom is currently testing Open RAN in Neubrandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for example. Funding for this test amounts to EUR 10.5 million. Vodafone is also in on the action. In Plauen, Saxony, the Telekom competitor wants to carry out a test funded with 1.5 million euros. Naturally, Andreas Scheuer (CSU), the Federal Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, also commented on the model tests. He explained it as follows:

“Under real conditions, we will test what it takes to plan, implement, operate and integrate Open RAN mobile networks into the existing infrastructure”

Most money for Telekom

Of course, there is for the traditional company Telekom the bulk of the funding. The money is drawn from a special research consortium, which is to deal specifically with the expansion of Open RAN. A real laboratory is to be set up in the German capital specifically for this purpose. The Open RAN lab, which goes by the name of “i14y-Lab,” has one goal in mind: to make the technology of tomorrow suitable for mass use as quickly as possible. In order to achieve this, it is first necessary to finalize the development of Open RAN. The fact that many German providers are interested in this research is made clear by the list of well-known supporters of the i14y-Lab. For example, the development of the new standard is also supported by the world-renowned Fraunhofer HHI, the TU Berlin and Telefonica Deutschland. In total, the lab is expected to receive funding of a whopping 34 million euros.

“The Open RAN Lab funded by us is an open platform that enables networking of market players and accelerates technical development”

comments Federal Minister Scheuer on the Berlin-based Open RAN Lab. Furthermore, he said about the modern consortium:

“All interested market participants have access and can collaborate there across the board and learn from each other – whether network operators, network suppliers or new players such as startups or SMEs.”

Do you still know Nokia?

But federal support is not only flowing into local mobile operators. An old familiar from the cell phone industry has also been able to snag funding – Nokia. The Finnish company is an avid proponent of the new Open RAN technology and is working flat out to expand it. The former “cell phone god” has chosen the city of Ulm, where one of the Finns’ company sites is located, especially for this purpose. Like Telekom and Vodafone, they want to test Open RAN on site. With just under 2.5 million euros of support, the federal government also wants to be active in this.

Independence on China and the USA?

It almost seems as if the chip crisis, which has now lasted for many months, has made it clear how dependent we are on other markets. Since especially the production of 5G chips requires valuable semiconductors, not only smartphone manufacturers but also we as end consumers had to suffer from delayed releases and long waiting times. When this problem will change is still uncertain. The only thing that is certain is that after the crisis is before the crisis. For this reason, it is important that we start thinking now about how we can become less dependent on large technology nations such as China, but also the USA. Scheuer sees this as an added value not only for Germany, but also for Europe as a whole:

“The knowledge gathered can also make an important contribution to the further development of Open RAN throughout Europe”

Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Bad Segeberg.

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Germany wants to invest a little more in the future. This is evident, among other things, in the recently announced financial support for Open RAN. With a total of 300 million euros, companies in particular are to be equipped for the future. Investment in different projects But what is Open RAN anyway? It is a … (Weiterlesen...)

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