Finland-based telecom network maker Nokia has put its contribution to the O-RAN Alliance on hold, citing US policy concerns, Politico reported.
US agencies have cited O-RAN Alliance members Kindroid, Pythium, and Inspur because of their role in Chinese military modernization. This follows US restrictions placed on Huawei and ZTE for exports to North Korea and Iran.
In December 2020, Strand Consult published a research note detailing the 44 members of the O-RAN Alliance which are Chinese government-owned and/or military aligned. These include firms whose products have determined to be security risks by the US Department of Commerce, the US Department of Defense, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Kindroid and Pythium have been placed on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List; the Pentagon barred Inspur from federal procurement for its military ties; and the FCC denied an operating license to China Mobile and may revoke the licenses of China Telecom and China Unicom.
While Huawei is not formally involved in the O-RAN Alliance, Strand Consult believes it has an informal relationship with the organization given its close ties to many O-RAN members.
The purpose of OpenRAN, at least in the US, is to limit the presence of vulnerable Chinese government technology in networks. O-RAN Alliance members exchange specifications on OpenRAN every 6 months; this means that the 44 Chinese member companies, including those on the US Entity List, get fresh OpenRAN code at least twice a year.
Given that Chinese state-owned companies comprise more than one-fifth of the membership of the O-RAN Alliance, it is essentially impossible to limit Chinese government influence in the organization. Non-Chinese companies may reconsider their membership in the O-RAN Alliance to reduce risk and improve security.