AT&T on Monday said it would work with Ericsson to upgrade its network in a contract worth $14 billion over the next five years.
The telecommunications giant chose Ericsson to move its network infrastructure to an open radio access network system, which is a cloud-based system that allows AT&T to use parts from various providers, rather than the traditional model having a single company provide all of the networking equipment. AT&T said it plans to have Open RAN sites running starting next year, and have 70% of its traffic running through these systems by 2026.
The move to Open RAN marks a big shift for AT&T and underscores the increasing interest from U.S. carriers in this type of technology, which will allow them to upgrade their networks faster and work with more partners. The more flexible process will also allow companies to quickly take advantage of new bands of radio airwaves as they become available.
The end result for consumers is a network that could run faster and more reliably over time, leading to better mobile coverage overall and potentially more reliable and faster 5G home internet services.
The Open RAN system also better prepares AT&T for the advent of 6G, which is still several years away.
“AT&T is taking the lead in open platform sourcing in our wireless network,” said Chris Sambar, executive vice president of AT&T Network. “With this collaboration, we will open up radio access networks, drive innovation, spur competition and connect more Americans with 5G and fiber.”
“We are truly proud to be partnering with AT&T in the industrialization of Open RAN and help accelerate digital transformation in the U.S.,” said Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson.
DISH Network was the first major company to embrace Open RAN, with T-Mobile and Verizon still looking at the technology.
Image credit: AT&T