EchoStar subsidiary Dish Wireless secured a $50 million grant from a US agency to establish the Open RAN Centre for Integration and Deployment (ORCID), to test the interoperability, performance and security of offerings from various vendors.

ORCID will allow participants to test and validate hardware including radio units, software, and distributed and centralised units against a commercial-grade open RAN network deployed by Dish Wireless.

The test facility will be located at the operator’s site in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

It will be supported by consortium partners Fujitsu, Mavenir and VMware, and technology partners Analog Devices, ARM, Cisco, Dell Technologies, Intel, JMA Wireless, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Samsung.

The US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded the grant, the largest to date for its Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund. The pot was awarded $1.5 billion from the CHIPS and Science Act, which was passed in 2022 partly to help accelerate the adoption of open and interoperable networks in the US.

Dish Wireless’ centre taps an NTIA goal to prove the viability of open RAN through interoperability testing and validation.

ORCID will combine laboratory and field testing, and evaluation activities against Dish Wireless’ live open RAN stack.

The plan also includes ORCID participants tapping into the operator’s combination of low-, mid- and high-band spectrum to enable the field testing and evaluation. The open RAN elements will be evaluated using a mix of vendor offerings instead of products from a single supplier, in line with Dish Wireless’ multi-vendor ecosystem approach for its greenfield 5G network.

Charlie Ergen, co-founder and chairman of EchoStar, stated ORCID “will serve a critical role in strengthening the global open RAN ecosystem and building the next generation of wireless networks”.

In 2023, NTIA director for the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund Amanda Toman told Mobile World Live the organisation is also developing methodologies to prove to operators open RAN has performance parity with existing RAN and potentially even costs as well.