A new technology could be the answer to the Huawei dilemma that many countries are still torn over
THE SIGNAL was easy to miss amid the noise of new lockdowns and America’s elections. Earlier this week, Vodafone, a mobile operator, announced that in Britain it would use a technology called OpenRAN to replace some gear made by Huawei, a Chinese firm whose products are considered too much of a security risk to be used in the new 5G mobile networks. It is a sign that the much-discussed Huawei dilemma is not as intractable as it may seem—and a reminder that OpenRAN deserves more private-sector and government support.
在新一轮的大封锁和美国选举这样的大事件中，这个消息很容易被忽略。本周早些时候，移动运营商 Vodafone 宣布，在英国将使用一种叫做 OpenRAN 的技术来取代华为生产的一些设备。华为是一家中国公司，他生产的产品被“认为”在新的5G移动网络应用中存在太大的安全风险。这是一个信号，说明备受关注的华为困境并没有看起来那么棘手——同时也提醒我们，OpenRAN 应当被更多私营部门和政府支持。
In recent years America has conducted a campaign against Huawei, which it worries poses a threat to Western interests and which has built a commanding position in 5G systems globally. Australia, Canada and Japan have already in effect banned Huawei from their 5G networks. In July Britain said it would phase out its gear, and on October 20th Sweden said it would impose a ban, too. More countries may follow.
The trouble is that the costs of ditching Huawei are high: you risk becoming reliant on two big Nordic firms, Nokia and Ericsson, the other main suppliers of 5G gear. In the long run a duopoly is bad for competition and innovation. And in the short run neither firm is infallible. Nokia, in particular, is in trouble. On October 29th it announced a drop in sales of 7% year on year, and its shares plunged by almost 20%. Its new boss said that it had been “clearly behind” on 5G.
问题在于 ，放弃华为的成本很高：你的风险变成了依赖另外两家5G设备主要供应商，诺基亚和爱立信。从长远来看，巨头垄断不利于竞争和创新。从短期来看，两家公司都不是绝对正确的。尤其是诺基亚，正陷入困境。在10.29日，该公司宣布销售额同比下降 7% ，其股价也暴跌了20% 。 该公司的新老板表示，公司在5G方面明显落后。
OpenRAN is an alternative to relying on either Huawei or the Nordic duo. Along with a related technology called network virtualisation, it changes the rules of the game. To understand why, compare an old tethered telephone with a modern smartphone. One is a dedicated piece of hardware made of customised parts, whereas the other is a general-purpose computer controlled by software that can accommodate any type of app, provided it complies with certain technical rules.
Similarly, conventional mobile networks are made out of specialised equipment, whereas the new OpenRAN kind use mostly off-the-shelf hardware, with lots of code defining what it can do. Because all the gear connects up using standard interfaces, carriers can mix and match products from different suppliers—something that they cannot do today. Operators have more insight into what is going on in their networks and can avoid components they do not trust, such as Chinese chips. They could also save a lot of money and become quicker on their feet.
OpenRAN is gaining momentum. Last month Rakuten Mobile launched the world’s first 5G network based on OpenRAN—which helped the Japanese carrier cut investment by 40% (see Schumpeter). It can also put together new services within minutes instead of months, as is the case with conventional networks. In September Telefónica, which has 260m mobile subscribers in Europe and Latin America, teamed up with Rakuten to deploy OpenRAN more widely in its networks by 2025. In America Dish has started to build a 5G network based on the technology. With the notable exception of Huawei, even equipment-makers are coming on board. Ericsson has just announced its first related product.
OpenRAN 正在蓄势待发。上个月，Rakuten Mobile 宣布了世界上第一个基于 OpenRAN 的5G网络——这帮助日本运营商缩减了40%的成本。它同样可以在几分钟之内整合新的服务，而不是像传统网络那样需要几个月。在今年九月份，在欧洲和拉丁美洲拥有 2.5亿移动用户的 Telefónica 与 Rakuten 联手，于2025年之前在其网络中更广泛的部署 OpenRAN 。 在美国，Dish 已经开始建立基于该种技术的5G网络。除了华为这个引人注目的例外，就连设备制造商也加入了进来。爱立信刚刚宣布了第一款相关产品。
Yet OpenRAN still has problems. The supply chain is untested and may face bottlenecks if demand suddenly surges as more mobile operators sign up. Notwithstanding its roll-out in urban parts of Japan, experts fear that the technology may not yet function well in densely populated cities; most carriers, including Vodafone, want to test it in rural areas first. Integrating the many different products that make up an OpenRAN network is hard. And although the technology lowers the potential security threat from China, it creates new openings for hackers.
但是，OpenRAN 仍然存在一些问题。他的供应链没有经过测试，如果随着更多的移动运营商签约、需求猛增，可能会面临一些瓶颈。尽管它已经开始在日本的的城市地区推广，但专家们担心该技术在人口稠密的城市或许还不能很好地发挥作用；包括 Vodafone 在内的大多数运营商，都希望在农村地区先进行测试。把许多不同的产品集成在一起组成 OpenRAN 网络是很苦难的。 尽管这项技术降低了来自中国的潜在威胁，但它为黑客创造了新的机会。
All this means that governments still have a role to play. They should help tackle bottlenecks by, for example, encouraging investment in the development of specialist chips that power antennae, as well as laboratories that test integration of a network’s components, as lawmakers in America have proposed. They should also follow Japan by promoting a common set of standards among equipment-makers and network-operators that deals with security and mandates at least some compliance with OpenRAN. The choice between relying on a monolithic Chinese firm that is not fully trusted or on a doddery Western duopoly is a rotten one. It would be a lot better to give a new type of technology a chance to thrive.
所有的这一切，都意味着政府仍然可以发挥作用。正如美国国会提议的那样，他们应当帮助解决瓶颈问题，比如，鼓励投资天线供电特殊芯片研究，以及测试网络组件集成的实验室建立。他们还应该消防日本，在设备制造商和网络运营商中推广一套共同标准，以求在安全和和要求上在一定程度上符合 OpenRAN 的规定。在一个不被完全信任的中国巨头公司 和 衰老的西方双巨头之间选择，是一件糟糕的事。给一种新型技术一个蓬勃发展的机会要好得多。
A: Hi Neil, I couldn’t go to the meeting yesterday . What did we talk about ?
嗨， neil ，我昨天没能去开会。 会上说了什么？
B: It was mostly about the sales figures from last year and the marketing budget.
A: Sales increased last year , didn’t they ?
B: They did , by approximately 15% . Unfortunately profits didn’t increase with them .
是的，增长了大约15% 。 可惜利润并没有随之增加。
A: How is that possible ?
B: The CEO believes we’re spending too much on marketing .
A: But if we decrease the annual budget , won’t that affect sales ?
B: It might . Anyway I’m part of the marketing team , so I need to take responsibility.
A: Well I think you guys are doing a great job . We get great feedback form your events .
B: Thanks , Susie . That means a lot .