The first specification from the O-RAN Alliance has been adopted as a public standard by ETSI.
The ‘O-RAN Fronthaul Control, User and Synchronizsation Plane Specification v7.02’ defines an open interface between the radio unit and baseband, and will be labelled as ETSI TS 103 859.
In particular, it specifies the control plane, user plane and synchronization plane protocols used over the fronthaul interface, linking the O-DU (O-RAN distributed unit) and the O-RU (O-RAN radio unit) when implementing the lower layer functional splits (for O-RAN, mainly the 3GPP’s Split 7.2, which implements some, though not all, the Layer 1 network functions on the virtualized DU rather than the physical RU).
Although open initiatives can be a valuable way to encourage rapid innovation without the formal processes of official standards development organizations (SDOs), they lack the consistency and broad acceptance of SDOs such as 3GPP and ETSI. To ensure broad adoption, many open initiatives eventually submit their specs to be official standards, as Small Cell Forum and others have done in the past. This was the first such move from the O-RAN Alliance, but its executives have said for a while that their aim was to feed the specs into SDOs for industry adoption.
“Recognition of O-RAN specifications by ETSI is another major step in enabling broad adoption of Open RAN,” said Claire Chauvin, O-RAN board member and strategy architecture and standardization director at Orange. “Having the O-RAN specification available as an ETSI specification adds further endorsement desired by commercial and public sector entities in a range of countries.”
The O-RAN Alliance is preparing to submit more of its specifications, in other parts of the RAN architecture, to the ETSI Publicly Available Specification (PAS) process. Organizations submitting specs to this process must meet certain requirements – they must be a legal entity, have an IPR policy compatible with ETSI’s, and have signed a Cooperation Agreement.
Dominique Everaere, chair of the ETSI mobile standards group technical committee, said: “The O-RAN specification has been approved as an ETSI specification after a thorough review and requested revisions by our experts.”