Leading operators and technology companies backed a new Open Networking Foundation (ONF) initiative to develop key software platforms for 4G and 5G open RAN deployments.

ONF stated the SD-RAN project will initially “focus on building an open source, near Real-Time RAN Intelligent Controller (nRT-RIC)” for open RAN architecture. China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom and AT&T are founding members of the project, alongside Facebook, Google, Intel, NTT, Radisys and Sercomm.

The Foundation noted it already has a “working skeleton prototype” of a near real-time micro RIC and aims to commence field tests in early 2021. The RIC is based on an ONOS SDN controller commonly used by global tier-1 operators, it stated.

Earlier in the year, AT&T and Intel highlighted their own work on open RIC platforms.

ONF said its project will feed into the work of the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

AT&T Labs president and CTO Andre Fuetsche tipped the ONF project to “accelerate the transition to an open RAN future”.

Chih-Lin I, chief scientist for wireless technologies at China Mobile, added an open source RIC with support for advanced third-party network applications “will make it possible for operators to optimise resource utilisation and application performance”.