AT&T CEO John Stankey (pictured) provided some colour on a $14 billion open RAN deal with Ericsson during an investor conference, stating a slowdown in the vendor sector allowed it to strike an opportunistic agreement.

The five-year deal came at the expense of Nokia, as AT&T moves towards shifting its core RAN investment solely to Ericsson.

“With the slowdown in the vendor markets, we were able to step back and say what can we do to get an opportunistic agreement where we can drive vendors into a position to move more aggressively on open RAN to position us long term”, Stankey said.

He noted progress on open RAN has been slow despite AT&T working on the concept for a number of years.

Stankey explained the deal with Ericsson enables AT&T to operate its business more effectively by having one network infrastructure at the core along with one set of supporting systems.

He said the move leaves AT&T better positioned for future investment cycles, whether these involve more spectrum availability or the advent of 6G.

“We want to make sure we’re ready to go when those moments occur” he stated, adding AT&T “can take advantage of a little bit of a lull right now in the supply base of what’s going on in terms of existing equipment.”

Stankey noted the $14 billion contract was just one element of a $24 billion network investment this year and it is “the right time for us to think about doing this”.

Ericsson’s architecture includes open interfaces which would enable other vendors to take part in AT&T’s open RAN push.

“It’s entirely possible Nokia could be one of those suppliers of that more diverse vendor base that we ultimately start working toward,” he stated.