Former AT&T exec leads STL’s foray into open RAN
STL is an India-based company that has become famous for the past 25 years by providing optical technology and deploying telecommunications fibers.
Chris Rice, a well-known former CEO of AT&T, recently joined STL to lead the company’s nascent access solutions business. It focuses on both fixed and wireless access technologies, including participation in maritime change in the open radio access network (RAN).
Rice was with AT&T for 25 years, ending his career there as an SVP of network infrastructure and cloud. He played a key role in AT&T’s software-defined networks and virtualization and was the telecom’s key man for various open source efforts, as well as a frequent speaker at industry conferences.
He joined STL in March as CEO of Access Solutions, which focuses on fiber optics for fixed access and 5G for wireless access.
STL and 5G
STL jumps on the open RAN trend to compete with new models such as Mavenir, Altiostar and Airspan. Rice said STL makes RAN radios open. “We are building the radio stations ourselves for different groups,” he said. The company already has radio customers around the world, including some customers in North America. STL optimizes its radio projects in five areas: size, price, power, operational capability and deployment capability.
STL also creates open RAN software for the Intelligent RAN Controller (RIC).
“Our goal is to be the RIC for the open RAN industry,” Rice said. “You want to make sure that whoever provides the RIC has no personal interest in optimizing it for their own CU, DU, RU.” He said traditional telecommunications providers have provided their RICs that only work with their radios. .
Rice said his management team is “quite small at the moment,” but he controls the global staff base. The majority of STL employees live in India and he expects the ratio of employees in the business to access to be around 80% -90% based in India. STL is in the process of building a manufacturing plant in Columbia, South Carolina.
Open source groups
Rice noted that over the past four to five years at AT&T, he has led a lot of work related to open source and software-defined networks. “One of the things I saw was that I had a good technical team, but not all the other carriers could do things as fast as we did. I thought we needed to make the SDN more consumable and have a viable delivery path for it. “
He said STL gave him the opportunity to pursue that goal, and he also wanted to “stretch his muscles as CEO”.
For all open source groups, he will not be able to remain so directly involved in the daily contributions and will have to rely on other members of his team to do so. Important open source groups for STL include the Linux Foundation network groups, the O-RAN Alliance, and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP).
He particularly emphasized TIP’s work on open RAN radios and RIC software. TIP has an open RAN subgroup called Radio Intelligence and Automation (RIA) group that STL finds important. “They’ve made some interactions with the RIC,” Rice said. “I think you will see that the importance of RIC will grow over time. I see that this will be a very central element. “
STL and fiber
The STL Access Group will also work on fiber access technologies that will take advantage of the company’s fiber roots.
Rice said, “We’re definitely working on that, too.” His group will take disaggregation concepts and apply them to the FTTX stack. “We have a department that builds the optical cables and fibers that are laid between the head office and the homes. This is within the wheelhouse of the STL. “But his group will focus on ‘doing things in software.’