The Senate Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee — Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA) — led a bipartisan group of Senators in urging FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to encourage carriers to adopt OpenRAN and other open and interoperable standards for “rip & replace.”
They seek such carrier solutions as the agency works to implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which provides funds for small carriers to remove and replace untrusted equipment from their wireless networks. Rubio and Warner have pushed for the adoption of open and adaptable solutions in the U.S. as an alternative to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE.
“The inclusion of OpenRAN solutions on the list of suggested replacements could produce benefits beyond the immediate goal of securing American communications networks,” the senators wrote in a letter. “Such equipment is interoperable, uses open interfaces, is not reliant on a single equipment vendor, and is easily upgradeable to new applications and uses, including 5G OpenRAN, without the need to continually replace proprietary equipment or conduct additional tower climbs. Moreover, this equipment will help spur innovation and create more competition and diversity in the supply chain.”
To aid in securing communications networks as expeditiously as possible, the FCC should make clear that equipment and services on the list of suggested replacements, including OpenRAN solutions, will be eligible for reimbursement as prescribed in the Act, say the Senators. “The FCC should also clarify to carriers that they need not wait for the Act to be fully implemented and funded to begin the replacement process to be eligible for reimbursement if using suggested replacement equipment and services.”
The lawmakers see OpenRan as stretching federal dollars, as OpenRAN offers the possibility of cost savings. The letter was also signed by Senators Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Burr (R-NC), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Angus S. King (I-ME).