Open standards for radio access networking (RAN) technology have long been hyped as a way for mobile network operators to control the costs of 5G deployment, but some experts are beginning to question that potential, and legal difficulties for vendors working on the standard continue to arise.\nThe idea behind open RAN is relatively simple. Using a standards-based approach to carrier radio equipment would allow carriers to mix and match the gear they use in base stations--freeing them from the traditional vertical integration of such equipment and potentially making the market more competitive, driving prices down.\n\nBut this requires a considerable degree of coordination from companies like Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung that aren\u2019t used to working cooperatively with one another. And some reports suggest that the hype around open RAN is considerably exaggerated.\nFor one thing, according to analyst John Strand, open RAN\u2019s ability to drive cost down is less clear than has been claimed by its backers. Increased competition is all well and good, but a diversified vendor portfolio increases complexity and potentially causes customers to lose out on volume discounts that would otherwise be obtained in a traditional, single-vendor purchase.\n\u201cIt may be that some OpenRAN providers can offer equipment more cheaply on some parameters, but the cost advantage may not be significant when considering all the costs such as supply, availability, energy consumption, security, warranty, network integration, equipment matching, new contracts and service level agreements etc.,\u201d Strand wrote in a repornt.\nThe hype around open RAN is short on hard factual underpinnings, according to Strand, arguing that most of the claims about the technology\u2019s efficacy come from advocacy organizations and companies that have a vested interest in open RAN\u2019s success. He particularly points to claims that come from western governments that have embraced open RAN as a potential alternative to low-cost Chinese hardware manufacturers, particularly Huawei and ZTE.\n\u201cWhile there is nothing illegal about citing advocacy organizations, government agencies are supposed to be above touting advocacy as fact, science, and official policy,\u201d Strand wrote.\nGovernment policy worries\nUS policy has proved to be a stumbling block already. Nokia temporarily paused its involvement in the leading industry group, the O-RAN Alliance, amid concerns over the participation of Chinese companies on the Department of Commerce\u2019s banned list.\nThose specific concerns have since been resolved, and Nokia has resumed full participation in the group\u2019s work, but a similar issue cropped up late last month, as the Commerce Department added another company, New H3C Semiconductor Technologies to the list. That company is a partial subsidiary of HPE\/Aruba, which could complicate the US firm\u2019s participation in the O-RAN Alliance.\nHPE said in a statement that it is \u201cevaluating what impact, if any, the Commerce Department\u2019s action has on our ability to remain members of the Alliance,\u201d but indicated that it had \u201cno plans\u201d to divest itself of H3C.\nTesting and deployment continue\nNevertheless, the development of open RAN is still moving forward, as participants in the O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project to create new specifications and perform interoperability testing, according to Gartner.\nGartner\u2019s most recent hype-cycle report for communications service-provider networks acknowledges that open RAN is still at least two years away from maturity.\n\u201cOpen interface is the key to achieve best-of-breed vendor selection by balancing features and cost,\u201d according to the report, which also said the continued use of vertically integrated, vendor-locked radio equipment could contribute to delays in 5G deployment.\n\u201cRAN is the last non-virtualized network component,\u201d said Gartner.