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Five wireless carriers from across the world this week launched a new effort to develop open, interoperable radio access networks.

The ORAN Alliance, announced by AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Domoco and Orange, will combine and expand the efforts of the xRAN Forum and C-RAN Alliance. Its members plan to establish reference designs for the wireless sector as it deploys next-generation equipment and networks.

“To take full advantage of the flexibility of 5G, we have to go beyond the new radios and change the overall architecture of the end-to-end system,” said AT&T Labs President Andre Fuetsch. “Open modularity, intelligent software defined networks and virtualization will be essential to deliver agile services to our customers."

Organizers said in addition to advancing open interfaces and RAN virtualization, the group will steer the industry toward the use of common hardware as well as standards specifying APIs and interfaces.

xRAN Forum Director and Stanford professor Sachin Katti touted the progress made by his group since its formation in the summer of 2016, including the first "open, interoperable front haul specification" expected to be unveiled next month.

"Going forward, we believe there will be strong, complimentary collaboration with our new colleagues from the C-RAN Alliance," Katti said.

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