Five of the largest operators in the Middle East pledged to deploy open RAN across their sizeable footprints and collaborate on pushing forward the architecture, which is shaking-up the make-up of mobile networks.

In a joint statement Etisalat Group, Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Zain Group, Saudi Arabia-based Etisalat affiliate Mobily and du announced the signing of an agreement to share knowledge on the new infrastructure and deploy it across their operations.

The group noted the move to open architecture would support new entrants in the network equipment space, achieve cost efficiencies and allow more agile and flexible networks across 4G and 5G.

Alongside the deployment of open RAN, the group backed virtualisation and network automation to enable a “fundamental change in the way operators manage networks and deliver services”.

Cited benefits include the ability to add or shift capacity more quickly, resolve network incidents and provide “enterprise-level services” on demand.

Etisalat Group CTO Hatem Bamatraf said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Middle East operators to come together to promote the development of an open technology that will help to enhance the flexibility and efficiency of our networks”.

“Driving innovation and open RAN deployment is the shared responsibility of every telco operator,” du CTO Saleem Alblooshi added.

The joint pledge comes as a growing number of operators and vendors back open RAN technology across the globe, with various projects and trials already underway.

Early adopters include Etisalat, which announced plans to deploy the technology in Afghanistan earlier this year following numerous tests across its footprint.