5G OpenRAN interoperability boost with UK centre

5G OpenRAN interoperability boost with UK centre

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The SONIC centre will test out interoperability of 5G OpenRAN hardware and software in the UK, with eight companies signing up initially.
By Nick Flaherty

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Eight 5G system developers have joined a UK centre for interoperability testing of OpenRAN technology.

The SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) is a joint programme between UK research programme Digital Catapult and UK regulator Ofcom to test interoperability and integration of open networking solutions.

SONIC will start with OpenRAN testing in May, combining laboratory capabilities with real world indoor and outdoor deployments. The solution providers taking part in SONIC include Accelleran in the Netherlands, Phluido, Effnet in Sweden, Benetel in Ireland, Mavenir, Foxconn, NEC and Radisys.

The aim of SONIC is to understand the readiness of Open RAN for real world applications and hasre best practice. The opportunity to experiment with multiple 5G Open RAN deployments through SONIC will enable the investigation of product deployment across multiple architectures and integration models, the implications of cloud and virtual architectures.   

Benetel in Ireland will provide SONIC with OpenRAN radio units (O-RUs) to be integrated with products from other providers in order to fully demonstrate OpenRAN’s multi-vendor capabilities and the open ecosystem that it supports.

US provider Mavenir last year acquired Cambridge-based small cell developer ip.access and launched a Centre of Innovation in the city. This has a focus on open virtualized Multi Radio Access Technology (vMRAT) development for MRAT OpenRAN that integrates cellular stacks from 2G to 5G.

“We are expanding our R&D capabilities in Europe and complementing our design centers in Sweden, Czech, and Germany with a new centre in the UK,” said Pardeep Kohli, Mavenir’s President and CEO. “We establish these centres of excellence in areas where there is a true hub of innovation and expertise. In this case, the UK is the headquarters for Mavenir’s EMEA operations, and it is the home of pioneering industry leaders. With this initiative, we have a unique solution that fits all possible types of applications with a single architecture, that provide the next generation radio access portfolio, completely based on OpenRAN principles by significantly boosting the ecosystem with many innovative and interesting initiatives.”

“SONIC will foster an ecosystem in the UK of large and small telecoms suppliers, with multiple providers for each element in the technology stack. Providing a neutral environment for testing and demonstration with eight solution providers will surface the opportunities and challenges of interoperability. We will collectively learn what works and what does not in terms of integration, technology and processes,” said Joe Butler, CTO of the Digital Catapult.

“With the first vendors on board and more expected to follow, this is an exciting step in the journey of the SONIC project,” said Simon Saunders, Director of Emerging & Online Technology at Ofcom. “SONIC offers a unique opportunity to shape what the UK’s supply chains of the future could look like and support innovation. So we encourage companies across the telecoms industry to express their interest in participating, as we get set for the project to go live in May.”

Benetel works with leading players and open initiatives, such as the O-RAN Alliance, the OpenAirInterface Software Alliance (OSA), the Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP), Open RAN Policy Coalition and now SONIC to provide RUs over fronthaul networks that interwork with virtualized baseband units. This open disaggregated RAN is the backbone of next-generation mobile network infrastructure.

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