On 08 December 2022 the United States of America, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, as represented by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; the Department of Home Affairs; the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, respectively, issued the following joint statement on telecommunications supplier diversity.
The United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are committed to ensuring the security and resilience of our telecommunications networks, including by fostering a diverse supply chain and influencing the development of future telecommunications technologies such as 6G. Collectively, we recognise that open and interoperable architectures are one way of creating a more open, diverse and innovative market. One year ago saw the release of the first set of international principles on the role of governments in fostering more diverse, competitive and resilient telecommunications market ecosystems. Today we reaffirm our commitment to these principles, outlined in the Prague Proposals on Telecommunications Supplier Diversity (the “2021 Prague Proposals”), including support for open and interoperable networks, public-private dialogue and global partnership.
One year on from the 2021 Prague Proposals’ release, the governments of the United States, Australia and Canada further announce the endorsement of the Open RAN Principles, published by the United Kingdom in April 2022. The Open RAN Principles are consistent with the 2021 Prague Proposals and seek to help guide industry towards the characteristics that governments want Open RAN to deliver in order to maximise the benefits that it will bring. The four principles are:
- Open disaggregation, allowing elements of the RAN to be sourced from different suppliers and implemented in new ways.
- Standards-based compliance, allowing all suppliers to test solutions against standards in an open, neutral environment.
- Demonstrated interoperability, ensuring disaggregated elements work together as a fully functional system - at a minimum matching the performance and security of current solutions.
- Implementation neutrality, allowing suppliers to innovate and differentiate on the features and performance of their products.
This joint statement sets out the initiatives that will seek to guide our shared efforts on telecommunications supplier diversity, building on the 2021 Prague Proposals and the Open RAN Principles:
1. Information sharing
We plan to continue to share information on our respective policy approaches to telecommunications supplier diversity and encourage information sharing among our respective testing and research facilities, such as the UK’s SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) and state-of-the-art UK Telecommunications Lab, Australia’s ‘Secure-G’ Connectivity Lab, once operational, and the Communications Research and Innovation Network of the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences.
2. A complementary approach to research and development (R&D)
We expect to take a complementary and cooperative approach to telecommunications R&D which promotes alignment of priorities and objectives, ensuring that our combined respective R&D approaches together form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This could include R&D partnerships - bringing together the brightest minds and most innovative entrepreneurs of each country to develop world-class open networks.
3. Ensuring strong security
We have a shared view that open and interoperable architectures should be secure. Security should be a core consideration throughout the entire lifecycle of relevant components and systems, including in the design, development, deployment, operation and decommissioning stages. We intend to proactively address any concerns while these architectures develop. Sufficient vendor participation, transparency and openness in Open RAN standards developing entities could enable security researchers to identify and address potential issues rapidly as they arise. Examples of state-of-the-art facilities aiming to test and improve the security of open and interoperable systems include the UK Telecommunications Lab and Australian ‘Secure-G’ Connectivity Lab.
4. Supporting transparency in standards
We intend to work together to encourage transparency in industry-led standards-setting processes to ensure that overall security is enhanced by open practices despite the opening up of additional interfaces. The onus and responsibility to lead standards development is with industry, but governments should be supporting and enabling these efforts. Transparent standards development is crucial to allow independent review to identify and resolve potential issues, ensuring that standards are built upon best practices.
5. Avoiding fragmentation
We encourage industry to avoid fragmentation of the nascent market by focusing on the smallest possible number of options for disaggregation which still allows the neutral implementation of secure and performant networks. This suggests a focus on developing the necessary number of specifications, splits, standards and standards bodies to promote interoperability and security, without unduly limiting market-based innovation. This should have the dual benefits of accelerating progress and reducing complexity for entrants, as set out in the 2021 Prague Proposals. This extends to proactively negating fragmentation at the system level - avoiding so-called ‘islands of interoperability’ only between partnered vendors, systems integrators and hardware suppliers - to ensure genuine Open RAN, as per the principle of ‘Implementation Neutrality’.
6. Working with international partners
Telecommunications supplier diversity is a global issue and will require a collaborative approach from the international community. We plan to, therefore, coordinate our efforts when engaging with international stakeholders and fora, share and implement best practice and work together to tackle shared policy challenges. We intend to seek the ongoing support from other like-minded countries to truly realise the benefits of a diverse telecommunications supply chain on a global scale.