Nokia has said that it will re-commence its technical contributions to the O-RAN Alliance, after the Alliance made procedural changes that it said brings it into line with US export laws.
Nokia had paused its contributions following the addition to the US government’s “Entity List” of a couple of Chinese member companies of the Alliance. It said that it was not prepared to risk contravening US law by contributing technical specifications to a project containing banned companies.
It hinted strongly that it would re-join activities if a legal workaround could be found, similar to the way that companies can contribute within ETSI and 3GPP alongside the contributions of named companies such as Huawei and ZTE.
The O-RAN Alliance said in statement that “became aware of concerns regarding some participants that may be subject to U.S. export regulations, and has been working with O-RAN participants to address these concerns.”
Accordingly, it said, “The O-RAN Board has approved changes to O-RAN participation documents and procedures. While it is up to each O-RAN participant to make their own evaluation of these changes, O-RAN is optimistic that the changes will address the concerns and facilitate O-RAN’s mission.”
Nokia, in a blog post notably by-lined to its head of networks, Tommi Uitto, said that it would now be re-commencing its technical contributions to the Alliance.
Neither the O-RAN Alliance nor Nokia’s post detailed what procedural changes have been made. TMN has asked both for more details. It is not clear what changes O-RAN has made that would enable it to operate in a similar way to Standards Development Organisations, for example if there are any changes in its current voting structures.
UPDATE 21:10pm UK 14-09-2021:
All technical contributions will now be non-confidential
TMN has seen quotes from a letter distributed to O-RAN Alliance members that states that changes will be made to “Annex 1 of the Application Form”.
The principal change being made is that all technical contributions will now be non-confidential. That is clearly to aid transparency as to who has contributed to the specifications.
The letter itself says, “These changes generally involve making future technical contributions non-confidential but the nature of these changes cannot be summarized in a single phrase.”
The Alliance will also be making changes to its Working Group procedures. It has created a new non-confidential directory in its member Wiki and states that “Effective on September 13, 2021, all new contributions containing technical information shall be uploaded to the “Non-Confidential Contributions” directory.”
The letter said, “This will facilitate implementing potential procedural changes that are currently under consideration.”
In the interim Nokia has been in touch to say that we should ask the O-RAN Alliance about changes.
As it announced its re-entry, Nokia took the opportunity to point out just how committed it has been, and remains, to Open RAN.
“Nokia’s commitment to both O-RAN and the O-RAN ALLIANCE, of which we were the first major vendor to join, remains just as strong today as it did when we first leaned in to these initiatives. Indeed, Nokia was the first large, established supplier to endorse and help to found the O-RAN ALLIANCE when it consisted of only five operators. Today, 26 of the 29 CSPs in the alliance are Nokia customers.
We also remain the strongest contributor to the alliance’s technical work. Nokia’s technical contributions are visible across most of the alliance’s ten working groups and four focus groups.”