Five of the world’s largest operators announced a new alliance with the goal of driving forward the development of a more open, smarter generation of radio access network.

The O-RAN Alliance comprises AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DoCoMo and Orange, and combines previous groups the C-RAN Alliance and xRAN Forum into a joint, operator-led effort to help shape the next generation of radio access networks.

In a joint statement, the association said it aimed to lead the industry towards open, interoperable interfaces, RAN virtualisation, and big data enabled RAN intelligence. It is also eyeing measures to maximise the use of common-off-the-shelf hardware and merchant silicon, minimising the use of proprietary hardware.

The alliance pledged to champion the use and development of real time analytics to drive embedded machine learning systems and artificial intelligence back end modules, which it said would empower network intelligence.

Assisting the development of virtualised network elements with open, standardised interfaces will be another key aim of the O-RAN Alliance’s work.

“For 5G to unlock new business opportunities and markets, it is essential that we evolve a RAN infrastructure platform that allows us to innovate quickly to meet customer expectations,” Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP research and technology innovation, Deutsche Telekom said. “The O-RAN approach, to drive more openness, modularity and programmability in our future networks, can enable a more agile delivery of services to our customers.”