A lot of the buzz around open network initiatives is focused on developed economies, particularly when a dose of politics is thrown in, as in the USA. However, many of the areas where the impact of open, affordable, software-based networks will highest are in emerging economies, as highlighted by a new Telecom Infra Project (TIP) project in Indonesia.
TIP – which defines operator requirements and specifications to support deployment of open platforms such as O-RAN – already has initiatives running in parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia, directly or under the auspices of powerful members such as Vodafone or Facebook. Now it is joining forces with the Indonesian Government, the GSMA and local MNOs in a joint program to validate open networks and seek to stimulate a new ecosystem, based around the latest TIP open infrastructure community lab.
That, in turn, could accelerate the expansion of cellular connectivity, especially in rural areas of the country. Indonesia has the world’s third largest population but is nowhere close to China and India in terms of mobile network availability or usage. A series of blunders and scandals have delayed 4G auctions and roll-outs, while cost-effective coverage is hard to achieve in a huge nation of 17,000 islands. A more open ecosystem could help make it more attractive for traditional or new operators to build out mobile broadband networks.
“Finishing ICT infrastructure has become a common problem faced by developing countries,” said Dr Ismail, director general of Kominfo, Indonesia’s ministry of communication and IT. “This problem becomes more difficult to overcome by countries with geographical challenges like mountains or archipelago as well as scattered rural populations.”
The collaboration aims to create a local network of vendors, integrators and service providers to offer a more attractive deployment strategy, in which operators can tap into a pool of resources for validating technologies and use cases, enabled by resources like a TIP community lab. The aim will be to accelerate and expedite the process of moving from the lab to the field.
All five of the country’s MNOs – Telkomsel, Indosat Ooredoo, XL Axiata, Smartfren and Hutchison 3 Indonesia – have pledged support and are interested in a more cost-effective approach to rural roll-outs. Local ISP Net 1 is also planning to take part in trials.
According to Vishal Mathur, global head of engagement at TIP, Indosat and Smartfren have started assessing open RAN technologies and have engaged with several technology suppliers, including Parallel Wireless and Mavenir. Their phase one technical trials will start soon, over a limited number of cell sites (up to 30 for Indosat), and they will then provide feedback on their specific requirements to the TIP OpenRAN working group. The lab will be used to test and validate the solutions developed for the Indonesian operators.
Mathur also told TelecomTV that a TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center (TEAC) might be considered for Indonesia. TEACs are usually hosted by, and funded by, a major operator and are used to incubate start-ups which are developing open network technology. BT in the UK, SK Telecom in Korea, Deutsche Telekom in Germany and Orange in France are the current TEAC sponsors.