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NIST Joins O-RAN Alliance to Promote Wireless Technology Standards

Radio access networks

NIST Joins O-RAN Alliance to Promote Wireless Technology Standards

The National Institute of Standards and Technology aims to promote open and transparent standards for 5G and for other wireless technologies as a new member of the O-RAN Alliance, according to NIST Director Laurie Locascio. He added that establishing the standards will help protect data from cyber threats.

NIST will work with the members of the nonprofit organization, including mobile network operators, vendors and academic institutions, in achieving the agency’s goal. O-RAN Alliance, which works to develop interoperable radio access networks, is also expected to help keep supply chains stable and diverse, NIST said.

The organization enables Open RAN systems through the development of hardware and software specifications that will allow using various products from different vendors. Making the technologies compatible with each other reduces the reliance of manufacturers and network operators on a single vendor, thereby attracting new businesses in the wireless technology marketplace.

As part of the alliance, NIST will contribute its capabilities for measuring Open RAN systems’ performance, security and interoperability. The agency has a laboratory equipped with advanced measurement facilities, including anechoic and reverberation chambers, robotic antenna systems and test beds.

While Open RAN brings a lot of advantages, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Security Agency warned that the technology poses security concerns. Through the Enduring Security Framework, the agencies released a paper in 2022, citing Open RAN security considerations related to multivendor management, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, open-source software and other technical aspects.

Jorge Laurel, ESF project director, said security concerns always come with new open systems but he believes that they can be addressed through continuous efforts to improve Open RAN systems.

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Category: Federal Civilian