Chinese Companies Active in the Architecture of Open RAN

On April 1, 2021, RWR Advi­so­ry Group pub­lished its lat­est report, enti­tled, “Chi­nese Com­pa­nies Active in the Archi­tec­ture of Open RAN,” which high­lights the role played by Chi­nese state-owned (and oth­er high­er risk, Chi­na-domi­ciled) com­pa­nies in a new solu­tion being pur­sued by wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vice providers to con­struct 5G wire­less net­works.

Open RAN is an approach to “radio access net­work” (RAN) design that per­mits oper­a­tors to mix and match RAN com­po­nents from dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers (rather than being built as a pro­pri­etary end-to-end solu­tion). It is being her­ald­ed by many as a viable strat­e­gy for replac­ing Huawei with a sim­i­lar­ly cost-effec­tive solu­tion, but one that avoids embed­ding untrust­ed Chi­nese com­pa­nies (and com­po­nents) into 5G infra­struc­ture.

Chi­nese com­pa­nies, how­ev­er, are active­ly involved in this new solu­tion as well, notably via the orga­ni­za­tions set­ting the spec­i­fi­ca­tions. This report explains this involve­ment, iden­ti­fies some of the main com­pa­nies and pro­vides some brief con­text on the past (and some­times ongo­ing) asso­ci­a­tions of these com­pa­nies that have exposed them to nation­al secu­ri­ty, rep­u­ta­tion­al and oth­er forms of risk.