Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., currently leading the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice-chairman of the committee, led a group of senators in urging Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to encourage the adoption of OpenRAN and other open and interoperable standards solutions by affected carriers as it works to implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.
Rubio has pushed for the adoption of open and adaptable solutions in the United States as an alternative to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE, malign state-directed telecommunications companies that pose a clear and growing threat to the economic and national security of the U.S. and our allies.
Other signers include U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Col., Richard Burr, R-NC, John Cornyn, R-Tex., Tom Cotton, Maggie Hassan, D-NH, Angus King, I-Maine, and Bob Menendez, D-NJ.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Chairman Pai:
As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act (the “Act”), we write to urge you to include OpenRAN and other solutions that adhere to open and interoperable standards (“OpenRAN solutions”) on “the list of suggested replacements of both physical and virtual communications equipment, application and management software, and services” that the Act requires the FCC to develop. As you know, the Act directs that the list shall be technology neutral. An explicit assurance to impacted carriers that they may select OpenRAN solutions to replace covered equipment would support other potential benefits, including easing subsequent updates to “future proof” networks. This guarantee may also stretch federal dollars further, as OpenRAN offers the possibility of cost savings.
Further, to aid in securing communications networks as expeditiously as possible, the FCC should make clear that equipment and services on the list of suggested replacements, including OpenRAN solutions, will be eligible for reimbursement as prescribed in the Act. The FCC should also clarify to carriers that they need not wait for the Act to be fully implemented and funded to begin the replacement process to be eligible for reimbursement if using suggested replacement equipment and services.
The inclusion of OpenRAN solutions on the list of suggested replacements could produce benefits beyond the immediate goal of securing American communications networks. Such equipment is interoperable, uses open interfaces, is not reliant on a single equipment vendor, and is easily upgradeable to new applications and uses, including 5G OpenRAN, without the need to continually replace proprietary equipment or conduct additional tower climbs. Moreover, this equipment will help spur innovation and create more competition and diversity in the supply chain. It is prudent that we take full advantage of this moment to prevent similar concerns from arising in the future.
Accordingly, we request the FCC to explicitly allow reimbursement of affected carriers for purchases of OpenRAN solutions to replace covered equipment in their networks. We applaud the FCC’s recent Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks and laud your work to highlight the importance of OpenRAN solutions. Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and we look forward to our continued work.