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Digital Catapult welcomes telecoms giants to new Advisory Board and Industry Groups to support Open RAN development

Posted 13 Oct 2022

Digital Catapult welcomes telecoms giants to new Advisory Board and Industry Groups to support Open RAN development

Leading organisations from the telecoms sector including EE/BT, Three, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone UK and Mobile UK are today supporting the drive towards a more diverse, secure and resilient 5G supply chains, by joining new industry initiatives from Digital Catapult.

Digital Catapult, in partnership with Ofcom, today is announcing the creation of a new Strategic Advisory Board and Industry Groups to support its cutting edge Open RAN testbed, SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) Labs. 

SONIC Labs is a programme from Digital Catapult and Ofcom, funded by DCMS, to allow new solution providers to enter the telecoms supply chain in the UK. It will drive 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 Strategic Advisory Board will provide insight and advice to the SONIC Labs Programme on its activities to support 5G diversification in the UK –  developing a model for delivering the technical and innovation capabilities required to diversify UK 5G supply chains. The board represents public and private stakeholders from across the telecoms ecosystem – including DCMS, Ofcom, representatives of Open RAN Vendors (such as Mavenir), System Integrators (such as NEC), as well as potential adopters of Open RAN operators and neutral hosts such as Freshwave and Ontix. 

The Industry Groups, meanwhile, will look to encourage growth and investment in the UK telecom sector, supporting all players and organisations to maximise their role in the supply chain and innovate accordingly. The groups will include:

  • The Mobile Network Industry Group, chaired by Mobile UK, will look to draw on Open RAN expertise from across industry and includes representatives from the four leading UK MNOs, including EE/BT, Three, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone UK. As key adopters of Open RAN technology and products, mobile operators will provide invaluable insight on new product requirements, as well as exposure to new innovators participating in SONIC Labs.
  • The Wireless Infrastructure Industry Group, bringing together Wireless Infrastructure, Neutral Host and Telecoms Services Providers to support the SONIC Labs programme and UK Government ambitions, with representatives such as Wireless Infrastructure Group, Verizon UK,  Ontix, Freshwave and Circet UK. This group represents the network deployment ecosystem in the UK, as well as being potential adopters of Open RAN technologies for neutral host in building and private network deployments.  
  • A Testbed Industry Group will also be created, including commercial, public sector and academic representatives with a research focus on Open RAN and 5G diversification from across the UK and internationally. The group will include global testbeds to explore how SONIC Labs can support international companies looking to participate in the UK Open RAN market. 

Joe Butler, Chief Technology Officer from Digital Catapult said: 

“5G promises greater efficiency and productivity for businesses, more scope to slash carbon emissions,  and better broadband for consumers. By understanding perspectives with key telecoms stakeholders on developments and needs in 5G supply chains, we’ll be able to support new entrants and innovators in making this happen. 

“We’re excited to bring together influential leaders from across telecommunications to help drive forward our SONIC Labs programme, supporting the aim to help diversify the UK 5G supply chain.”

The first board and industry group meetings will take place this Autumn, with the groups set to provide strategic guidance for the duration of the SONIC Labs programme. 

Notes to Editors 

Members of the Strategic Advisory Board include:

Jeremy Silver – CEO – Digital Catapult

Joe Butler – CTO – Digital Catapult

Paul Ceely – Director of Technology Strategy and Programme Lead – Digital Catapult

Dritan Kaleshi – Director of Technology – 5G and Programme Lead – Digital Catapult

Simon Burley – Programme Director, Emerging Technology – Ofcom

Scott Bailey – Head of Telecoms Diversification – DCMS

Simon Rowell – Head of Programme Development – DCMS

Alex Cleaves – SONIC Labs Portfolio Manager – DCMS

Tom Bennett – CTO – Freshwave

Bob Slorach – CTO – Wireless Infrastructure Group

Simon Saunders –  Honorary Professor, University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab, Visiting Professor, King’s College London and Fellow at Royal Academy of Engineering

Stefano Cantarelli – CMO and Executive Vice President – Mavenir

Hamish MacLeod – Director – Mobile UK

Gary Collins – GM, Head of Sales – UK&I – NEC

Sophie James – Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy – techUK

Dimitra Simeonidou – Co-Director – Institute of Digital Futures – University of Bristol / UKTIN

Vish Mathur – Global Head of Engagement – Telecoms Infra Project


Members of the Mobile Network Operator Industry Group include:

Mobile UK



Virgin Media O2




Digital Catapult 


Members of the Wireless Infrastructure Industry Group include:



Circet UK

Dense Air



Verizon UK

Wireless Infrastructure Group



Digital Catapult 


Members of the Testbed Industry Group will be appointed in the coming months. 

Register your interest in SONIC Labs or find out more about our latest open call here