Digital Catapult and Ofcom unveil first of its kind Open RAN testing facilities in the UKPosted 29 Mar 2023
- The new lab provides a commercially-neutral, collaborative environment for the testing and integration of Open RAN network solutions
- SONIC Labs aims to diversify the telecoms supply chain by helping Open RAN vendors to the UK market
- The facilities open as additional companies are welcomed to the SONIC Labs programme
Digital Catapult, working in partnership with Ofcom, has today announced the opening of its new Open RAN testing facilities as part of its SONIC Labs (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) programme, funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).
The programme is driving forward the rollout of a new wireless communication technology known as Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN), which enables mobile networks to be built using a variety of different equipment suppliers.
The new facilities provide multiple Open RAN vendors with the opportunity to trial, test and accelerate the development of their products in a commercially neutral environment. The SONIC Labs programme aims to support the UK government’s 5G Telecoms Diversification Supply Chain Strategy so it is fit for the future – making it more secure and accessible for new market entrants, as well as fostering innovation in the Open RAN space.
Multiple vendors are already carrying out end-to-end Interoperability, performance and scalability testing in the dedicated purpose built space with state of the art testing and lab infrastructure. So far, fifteen vendors and thirty six Open RAN products have collaborated with SONIC Labs, signifying the largest concentration of Open RAN vendors coming together to collaborate in a commercially neutral environment in the UK, with reach to additional companies set to expand even further in the coming months.
At the official opening of the new facilities in Kings Cross, London, some of the companies involved in SONIC Labs will share their learnings and insights to date, alongside a discussion from labs and testbeds across the globe, such as i14Y Lab based in Germany and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from the US.
Digital Catapult has also welcomed new companies to the next activity in the SONIC Labs programme, including global Open RAN vendors new to the UK market such as Taiwan based WNC and US based Airspan Networks.
The next technical activity will focus on exploring the RAN Intelligence Controller (RIC), a system that controls the radio access networks (RAN) for optimised performance and can provide real-time analytics using Artificial Intelligence /Machine Learning based algorithms for informed decision-making and better network performance. Four organisations are set to bring their RIC products for interoperability testing and integration – including Accelleran and IS-Wireless.
The programme continues to evolve and extend its activities to push the capabilities of the Open RAN products, with the next activity focused on exploring outdoor focused products, as well as continuing maturity of indoor products such as testing and optimising the performance of the indoor multi-vendor systems. Field trials in indoor and outdoor environments will help to give a more realistic deployment for Open RAN systems and the maturity of the products.
The companies joining the next SONIC Labs activity include: Accelleran, Airspan Networks, Benetel, Capgemini, IS-Wireless, Phluido, VMware, WNC and Radisys.
We’re proud to be unveiling our new cutting-edge interoperability lab to give more companies the opportunity to accelerate the testing of their Open RAN products. Through our SONIC Labs programme we’re helping diversify the UK telecoms supply chain market and drive forward open networks in the UK.Joe Butler Chief Technology Officer at Digital Catapult
Our £250 million investment in facilities like SONIC Labs is boosting competition in the telecoms market and driving the development of new mobile technology.
These new facilities are another example of how the UK is at the forefront of telecoms innovation, supporting our diversification strategy by boosting business and growing the economy.Julia Lopez Digital Infrastructure Minister
Open Ran technology is a vital piece in the puzzle towards creating more diverse supply chains in the telecoms market. And having a new, dedicated space for the SONIC Labs project where companies can test their Open Ran products and explore new approaches, will help this innovative project go from strength to strength. We’re looking forward to working with the new companies involved and continuing our partnership with Digital Catapult.Lindsey Fussell Group Director Network and Communications at Ofcom
We are very happy to be able to prove the readiness of our O-RU for the market through SONIC Labs’ verification program. With SONIC Labs’ support, we look forward to seeing a more open, diverse, and integrated 5G supply-chain ecosystem.Gene Chuang Gene Chuang, CTO, Networking BG at WNC
Notes to Editors
Alongside access to Digital Catapult’s advanced facilities and technical support, participants will also have the opportunity to take part in thought-leadership events throughout and beyond the six-month technical programme and will benefit from networking opportunities and targeted innovation activities to accelerate their route to commercialisation.
Participating companies in this phase of the SONIC Labs programme include:
Headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium, Accelleran is an Open RAN pioneer, with software solutions enabling a diverse multi-vendor RAN ecosystem that creates greater flexibility, efficiency and reduced costs for operators and private networks. Accelleran brings the dRAX™ platform, which includes the Cloud Native CU, RAN intelligent Controller (RIC) developer platform and systems integration capabilities to the SONIC labs programme.
Airspan Networks is a U.S.-based provider of groundbreaking, disruptive software and hardware for 5G networks, and a pioneer in end-to-end Open RAN solutions. The company has a strong R&D footprint in the UK with around 100 employees. Airspan Networks are bringing their full Open RAN solution based on the Central and Distributed Unit (CU and DU), together with the Radio Unit (RU) AV2700, an indoor small cell to SONIC Labs.
Benetel is based in Dublin, Ireland, and is a company dedicated to delivering 5G ORAN Radio Units (O-RUs) to Communication Service Providers and Private Networks. They will participate by providing a Radio Unit (RU) in this cohort.
Capgemini is a global leader in partnering with companies to transform and manage their business by harnessing the power of technology. Capgemini will bring its global innovation expertise to the programme by leveraging its 5G portfolio capabilities, specifically its RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller) solution along with its xApps and rApps expertise. This technology is essential for developing innovative 5G use cases that can optimise RAN functioning and automate operations over radio access networks.
IS-Wireless is a company based in Poland, specialising in the development of software-defined 4G and 5G mobile networks. The company has been recognized as one of a few European RAN vendors by leading telco operators in their November 2021 report “Building an Open RAN Ecosystem for Europe.” IS-Wireless is contributing to the programme by bringing a Centralised Unit (CU), part of the Distributed Unit (DU) and the RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller).
Phluido is a pioneer company in the fields of fronthaul technology and cellular network virtualisation from San Diego, California. The company will be in charge of providing the physical layer a Distributed Unit (DU) to the SONIC Labs programme, for deployment on Arm machines.
Radisys, a global leader in open telecom solutions, enables service providers to drive disruption with new open architecture business models. Leveraging O-RAN standards for open interfaces and RAN disaggregation, multi-vendor Open RAN deployment is realised in SONIC labs with Radisys 3GPP Rel 16 compliant CU and DU software, Radisys will also play the role of the System Integrator (SI) in this phase of the programme.
Wistron NeWeb Corporation (WNC) specialises in short-/mid-/long-range communications technologies and provides solutions in network communications, network infrastructure, smart home and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). WNC will bring its R1220 series radio unit (RU) and R1220 flexible vRAN solution to the SONIC Labs programme.