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Open call

SONIC Labs

Open date: Monday 18 July 2022   Close date: Sunday 21 August 2022

Overview

SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) Labs is a two year programme from Digital Catapult and Ofcom, funded by DCMS, to allow new solution providers to enter the 5G 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 programme aims to create a commercially-neutral, collaborative, environment for testing interoperability and integration of open, disaggregated and software-centric network solutions and multi-vendor architectures. This will encourage innovative vendors to participate in the UK telecoms ecosystem and facilitate a more rapid path towards 5G deployment in UK networks, by taking early stage standalone products, integrating them and supporting commercial engagement.

Programme

This six month technical programme will enable vendors to accelerate the technology development of their Open RAN products through access to Digital Catapult SONIC Labs facilities and technical support. The technical work will include integration, interoperability testing, indoor field testing and product swap  testing, encouraging vendors to work with new partners. 

On top of access to Digital Catapult’s advanced facilities and technical support throughout the programme, participants will also have the opportunity to take part in events showcasing their products to potential customers and end users.

Benefits

This SONIC Labs programme provides participants:

Access to Digital Catapult’s commercially-neutral, multi-tenancy open network testbed providing real world indoor scale environments, including test and measurement capabilities

A place for collaborative, peer-assisted, integration and interoperability testing of products and solutions at a pre-commercial development stage, addressing the challenges of multi-vendor end-to-end solutions

£20,000 for each product on the cohort to help support your organisation during the 6 month programme

Another £40,000 for each System Integrator to support your extra resources given to the programme

Exposure to potential clients and key members of the Open RAN ecosystem

An opportunity to build new collaborative relationships with other companies, and potential commercial partnerships with other Open RAN vendors

An opportunity to share learnings and collaborate with other innovators on key Open RAN challenges to help create a more open, competitive and diverse telecommunication supply market in the UK

After the end of the programme, vendors will get the opportunity to continue to engage with the programme by participating in relevant events and connecting with other vendors

Who should apply

This programme is designed for UK and international telecoms vendors with Open RAN products Technology Readiness Level 5-9, specifically CU (centralised unit), DU (distributed unit), RU (radio unit) and RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller: both xApps and rApps) components. These components must conform to Open RAN interface standards. We will also require a system integrator for each gNodeB system that is formed in a cohort. You will be able to express interest in being the system integrator through the application form.

You can apply for multiple components to be considered for the cohort, but there is a limit of 3 products per vendor on a single cohort. Each vendor will receive £20,000 per product. If you are chosen as system integrator, you will receive an additional £40,000. If you have taken part in a previous SONIC Labs cohort, you are eligible to apply again. 

Please note that SONIC Labs is not a certification lab and will not be able to provide end to end commercial and conformance certification at the end of the programme. However, it will help innovators accelerate technology development to prepare for further testing and certification. The programme will also facilitate access to commercial labs providing certification.  

Organisations wanting to be a System Integrator will have the option in their application to show their interest. System Integrators must be able to demonstrate appropriate experience in integrating gNodeB systems and testing interoperability. 

They will also be responsible for monitoring the project progress and meeting regularly with the Digital Catapult team to discuss project updates and relevant learnings. 

Applicants should note of the following activities in relation to this open call:

  • 22nd  August – Open call closes
  • 8th -15th September – Selected participants invited to interview
  • 22nd September – Final participants confirmed and collaboration agreements sent out
  • 1st November – Kick off of programme  

If you have Open RAN products that are below TRL 5 and would like to find out more about future SONIC Labs cohorts, please get in touch here to have a preliminary call with the team.

Requirements

Vendors (Tier 1)

Vendors will need to take part in the following activities:

  • One onboarding session at the start of the Programme.
  • Integrate into SONIC Labs as per the low level design (LLD) created at the beginning of the programme.
  • Complete integration and benchmarking as per their ideal scenario.
  • Complete integration and benchmarking as per their deployment scenario.
  • Complete product swap experiment(s) agreed at the beginning of the Programme with the cohort.  
  • Support the Digital Catapult Technology and Innovation Practice team in the weekly capture of technical and non technical lessons learnt from the Programme 
  • Take part in all knowledge sharing (Community of Practice) sessions throughout the Programme.

Systems integrators (Tier 2)

System Integrators (Tier 2) will also need to take part in the following activities:

  • Responsible for coordination and integration of a gNodeB system and subsequent permutations of the selected Open RAN products, that involves their Open RAN product(s) during technical activities including running integration and interoperability tests.
  • Capture optimisations and performance improvement measures and report back to Digital Catapult and Ofcom on progress, challenges, learnings and successes throughout the technical stages.
  • Facilitate and lead meetings with the Open RAN vendors in the cohort to ensure the cohort technical activities and the deliverables are met on time.

Read the terms and conditions

Terms and conditions

Apply









What are your ambitions/ plans to commercialise your Open RAN product/s in the UK?
What Open RAN product(s) do you wish to put forward for SONIC Labs programme Cohort 2? What is the technology readiness level of these products?
Do you have adequate resources to take part in the programme from November 2022 – April 2023? (this includes having your relevant software/hardware and technical resources available to begin integration by November as well as other resources to take part in knowledge sharing and dissemination activities)
Are you happy for Digital Catapult to contact you about opportunities and initiatives that might be of interest to you?

FAQs

What is the SONIC Labs Programme?

SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) Labs is a commercially-neutral, collaborative, environment for testing interoperability and integration of open, disaggregated and software-centric network solutions and multi-vendor architectures.

It has been designed to offer global Open RAN product vendors and integrators a technical platform, a place to collaborate and a programme designed to accelerate the development of Open RAN technology in the UK telecoms ecosystem.

SONIC Labs is a joint programme between Digital Catapult and Ofcom, funded by DCMS as part of their 5G Diversification Strategy. The programme includes:

  • Access to Digital Catapult’s commercially neutral, multi-tenancy network testbed
  • Peer support sessions with other programme participants and the Digital Catapult teams to support on technical activities
  • Support following the end of the programme through SONIC Labs Alumni network, giving access to opportunities to showcase your products and gain bespoke support in commercialising your Open RAN products. 

 

Vendors (Tier 1) and System Integrators (Tier 2) will take part in the following activities:

  • Participate in one onboarding session at the start of the Programme.
  • The Participant will integrate into SONIC Labs as per the low level design (LLD) created at the beginning of the programme, 
  • Allow Digital Catapult to use the integrated asset on its SONIC Labs Programme, and 
  • The Participant will complete integration and benchmarking as per their ideal scenario.
  • The Participant will complete integration and benchmarking as per their deployment scenario.
  • The Participant will complete product swap experiment(s) agreed at the beginning of the Programme with the cohort.  
  • The Participant will support the Digital Catapult Technology and Innovation Practice team in the weekly capture of technical and non technical lessons learnt from the Programme 
  • Have at least one representative take part in all knowledge sharing (Community of Practice) sessions throughout the Programme.
  • During the broader SONIC Labs programme, it is anticipated that a showcase will take place and parties will use reasonable endeavours to participate.
  • Participant agrees to be visibly (name and logo) associated with the Programme, whilst on the Programme, and afterwards as a former participant and beneficiary.  This includes marketing collateral, such as website, print and digital materials.
  • For a maximum period of five years following the Project end date, Participant shall use its reasonable endeavours to answer specific questions from Digital Catapult relating to its growth and progress to assist Catapult demonstrate the impact of its activities. This shall include: (i) participation in an annual telephone conversation of one hour, and (ii) participation in two early surveys issued by Digital Catapult.

 

System Integrators (Tier 2) will also take part in the following activities:

  • ​​Responsible for coordinating the cohort to produce the low level design for the SONIC Labs Programme. 
  • Responsible for implementing the LLD (low level design) in a SONIC labs common infrastructure throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases.  (i.e. Co-located Open RAN components, VLAN assignments, network configurations)
  • Installation of Software and Firmware and Configurations of Open RAN components throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases, with the support of the Open RAN vendors participating in the cohort and Digital Catapult team.
  • Manage the orchestrator for the deployment of the Open RAN components  throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases (geography, timing etc). 
  • Run the integration and interoperability tests on all selected Open RAN products throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases
  • Together with the Open RAN vendors and Digital Catapult programme team capture results and learnings of Integration and Interoperability tests throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases
  • Support the E2E performance test suites throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases
  • With the support of the Open RAN vendors and Digital Catapult programme team capture optimisations and performance improvement measures throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases (i.e. Also capture any new software changes, parameter changes, physical changes etc).
  • Report any issues on the test execution throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases and collaborate with the Digital Catapult team to continuously monitor them until resolved.
  • Report back in meetings frequently to the Digital Catapult programme team and Ofcom programme team regarding progress, challenges, learnings and successes of the technical stages.
  • Facilitate and lead meetings with the Open RAN vendors in the cohort to ensure the cohort technical activities and the deliverables are met on time.

 

What are the key dates for the programme?

18 July 2022 – Application window for the open call begins

21 August 2022 – Closure of the application window for the open call

8 September to 15 September 2022 – Selected applications invited to interview

23 September 2022 – Successful applicants are notified

31 October 2022 – Public announcement of programme participants

1 November 2022 to 30 April 2023 – Programme duration

 

Who will be running the SONIC Labs Programme?

Digital Catapult will be running the programme in collaboration with Ofcom. The Digital Catapult Technology and Innovation Practice and Marcomms teams will be leading its delivery.

 

Who can apply to join the programme?

The SONIC Labs programme has been designed for international businesses of all sizes, who supply Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) products. Businesses must be looking to improve the readiness of their products for commercial deployment through integration and testing with other vendors. We are looking for a mix of startup, scaleups, mid-size and large companies to participate.

The requirements for applications to the SONIC Labs programme are:

  • Applicants must have one or more Open RAN product with Technology Readiness Level 5-9, specifically one of CU (centralised unit), DU (distributed unit), RU (radio unit) and/or RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller: both Xapp and Rapps).
    Applicants currently selling or planning to sell their products in the UK.
  • Applicants must have adequate technical resources to take part in the integration, testing and swapping process as well as other resources to take part in knowledge sharing and dissemination activities.
  • A company representative must be able to attend all the key activities, e.g. onboarding, the low-level design, integration, benchmarking and product swap experiment(s), knowledge sharing (Community of Practice sessions) and periodical meetings for the duration of the programme. Please note programme dates, which are subject to change.
  • Participants agreed to be visibly associated with the Programme, whilst on the programme and afterwards as a former participant and beneficiary. This includes marketing collateral, such as website, print and digital materials for a maximum period of five years following the Project end-date.

 

Does my organisation need to be a UK registered company to participate?

No, your organisation does not need to be a UK registered company. However, you do need to be a registered company in a country. Please note we do not accept high risk vendors (as defined by the National Cyber Security Centre, or otherwise under applicable law).

 

Does my organisation need to be UK based?

No, your organisation does not need to be based in the UK but must currently sell or plan to sell their Open RAN products in the UK.

 

Will we need to travel to the UK for the programme?

Due to the international nature of cohorts, it is not compulsory to travel to Digital Catapult offices in Euston London for the programme. However, we would encourage vendors to to travel to the UK to be able to more easily facilitate the initial integration into SONIC Labs if possible.

 

What is the difference between a Vendor (Tier 1) and System Integrator (Tier 2) role?

A vendor is responsible for bringing at least one Open RAN product to the cohort. This could be a CU (centralised unit), DU (distributed unit), RU (radio unit) or RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller: both xApps and rApps). 

The system integrator is responsible for coordinating the other vendors that have joined the cohort and support Digital Catapult teams throughout the technical activities. This will also include reporting back updates to the Digital Catapult teams about progress, challenges and successes.  

The full list of responsibilities for each role are detailed below:

 

Vendors (Tier 1) and System Integrators (Tier 2) will take part in the following activities:

  • Participate in one onboarding session at the start of the Programme.
  • The Participant will integrate into SONIC Labs as per the low level design (LLD) created at the beginning of the programme, 
  • Allow Digital Catapult to use the integrated asset on its SONIC Labs Programme, and 
  • The Participant will complete integration and benchmarking as per their ideal scenario.
  • The Participant will complete integration and benchmarking as per their deployment scenario.
  • The Participant will complete product swap experiment(s) agreed at the beginning of the Programme with the cohort.  
  • The Participant will support the Digital Catapult Technology and Innovation Practice team in the weekly capture of technical and non technical lessons learnt from the Programme 
  • Have at least one representative take part in all knowledge sharing (Community of Practice) sessions throughout the Programme.
  • During the broader SONIC Labs programme, it is anticipated that a showcase will take place and parties will use reasonable endeavours to participate.
  • Participant agrees to be visibly (name and logo) associated with the Programme, whilst on the Programme, and afterwards as a former participant and beneficiary.  This includes marketing collateral, such as website, print and digital materials.
  • For a maximum period of five years following the Project end date, Participant shall use its reasonable endeavours to answer specific questions from Digital Catapult relating to its growth and progress to assist Catapult demonstrate the impact of its activities. This shall include: (i) participation in an annual telephone conversation of one hour, and (ii) participation in a two early surveys issued by Digital Catapult.

 

System Integrators (Tier 2) will also take part in the following activities:

  • Responsible for coordinating the cohort to produce the low level design for the SONIC Labs Programme. 
  • Responsible for implementing the LLD (low level design) in a SONIC labs common infrastructure throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases.  (i.e. Co-located Open RAN components, VLAN assignments, network configurations)
  • Installation of Software and Firmware and Configurations of Open RAN components throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases, with the support of the Open RAN vendors participating in the cohort and Digital Catapult team.
  • Manage the orchestrator for the deployment of the Open RAN components  throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases (geography, timing etc). 
  • Run the integration and interoperability tests on all selected Open RAN products throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases
  • Together with the Open RAN vendors and Digital Catapult programme team capture results and learnings of Integration and Interoperability tests throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases
  • Support the E2E performance test suites throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases
  • With the support of the Open RAN vendors and Digital Catapult programme team capture optimisations and performance improvement measures throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases (i.e. Also capture any new software changes, parameter changes, physical changes etc).
  • Report any issues on the test execution throughout the integration, benchmarking and Open RAN product swap experiment(s) phases and collaborate with the Digital Catapult team to continuously monitor them until resolved.
  • Report back in meetings frequently to the Digital Catapult programme team and Ofcom programme team regarding progress, challenges, learnings and successes of the technical stages.
  • Facilitate and lead meetings with the Open RAN vendors in the cohort to ensure the cohort technical activities and the deliverables are met on time.

 

Vendors will receive £20,000 per product in the cohort. System Integrators will receive an additional £40,000 for their extra services. The maximum number of products either a vendor or system integrator can bring to a cohort is 3.

 

When will I hear back the results of my application?

Applicants will be notified on whether or not they have been successful in being down-selected to the interview phase of the programme by the 5th September. Applicants will be notified on whether or not they have been accepted to the SONIC Labs programme on 23 September 2022.

 

What are the eligibility criteria for the programme?

Vendors (Tier 1) and System Integrators (Tier 2) companies will be assessed on the following criteria.

  1. Technology relevance and suitability 50% weighting – One or more network products from O-RAN specification of radio, distributed, centralised unit and intelligent controller from the mobile system architecture. The product complies with the suitability criteria required for the integration and interoperability testing on Open RAN gNB systems including a technology readiness level (TRL) of 5-7 or 8-9 for more mature products where they interface to developing products and solutions. 
  2. Expertise and commitment of team 20% weighting – The team is equipped to collaborate with Digital Catapult engineers on system integration activities (installation/troubleshooting), has appropriate technology skills and resources to participate in other programme activities including knowledge sharing and dissemination.
  3. Business capability 10% weighting – The company has core competencies that would enable it to progress in the launch and commercialisation of Open RAN products within and beyond the UK.
  4. Product Market fit in the UK  10% weighting – The product satisfies the requirements for UK deployment architecture.
  5. Innovativeness of the product 10% weighting.The product is unique and novel in a way that meets Open RAN requirements and the ability to improve 5G network performance.

System Integrators (Tier 2), will also be judged on a pass/fail basis on:

  1. Technology relevance and suitability

Your organisation has appropriate experience in integrating Open RAN products and carrying out interoperability testing of Open RAN gNodeB systems. 

Participants who wish to apply for Tier 2 must put forward at least one relevant Open RAN product for the Programme for Tier 1. If an Applicant fails the Tier 2 criterion, they can still be considered as a Tier 1 Applicant. 

In the event multiple applications pass the Tier 2 criterion, the Applicants deemed most relevant and suitable to the overall gNodeB system(s) as a System Integrator will be selected by the judging panel. 

 

As an applicant, what’s the contracting process and funding I will receive?

Applications are governed by the competition rules. If you are successful, a participation agreement will be issued which governs your activities on the programme with respect to the technical activities on the programme, programme deliverables and payment milestones.

If you are not successful for cohort 2 you can re-apply or opt to have your application re-considered for future cohorts.

Vendors will receive £20,000 per product in the cohort. System Integrators will receive an additional £40,000 for their extra services. The maximum number of products either a vendor or system integrator can bring to a cohort is 3. Each cohort member will receive tranches of this amount according to delivery milestones during the programme.

 

What if my application is not successful to join as a Vendor?

If you are not successful for cohort 2 you can re-apply or opt to have your application re-considered for future cohorts. Digital Catapult will also be able to provide feedback as to why your application was not successful. 

 

What if my application is not successful to join as a System Integrator?

If you are not successful to join as a System Integrator we may consider your application as only a vendor and ask whether you would be interested in still participating. If you are unsuccessful and there is no opportunity to join as a vendor you can re-apply or opt to have your application re-considered for future cohorts.

 

Who will my application data be shared with?

Catapult Representatives: Relevant Catapult representatives will see your application in order to assess the application, and otherwise in the administration of your application and, if successful, participation on the Programme.

Ofcom: will see your full application in order to assess the application, except for your: name, email, role and telephone number.

The application information will only be used for the purposes of the programme and its evaluation, and will only be retained for the duration of the programme (two years), and for participants on the programme for the evaluation period (maximum five years) and otherwise to comply with legal requirements.

Please see the SONIC Labs Competition Terms for more details.

 

What will Digital Catapult deliver to participants on the programme?

Digital Catapult will deliver the following to participants:

  • Welcome Pack
  • One onboarding session at the start of the Programme
  • Regular interactions with the Digital Catapult Technology and Innovation Practice team to support technical activities on the programme as well as learn best practice.
  • £20,000 funding per product in the cohort and an additional £40,000 for System Integrators 
  • Community of Practice sessions to share learnings with peers and understand key challenges in the Open RAN space 
  • Access to Digital Catapult’s commercially-neutral, multi-tenancy open network testbed providing real world indoor scale environments, including test and measurement capabilities
  • Receive brand exposure on all Digital Catapult and SONIC platforms by being part of the programme

 

How can I benefit from the programme beyond interoperability testing?

Programme participants receive the following benefits beyond interoperability testing:

  • £20,000 funding per product in the cohort and an additional £40,000 for System Integrators 
  • Access to Digital Catapult’s commercially-neutral, multi-tenancy open network testbed providing real world indoor scale environments, including test and measurement capabilities
  • Bring your organisation’s products closer to certification through interoperability testing and benchmarking with other vendors to understand developments needed to commercialise your products
  • Peer support from other participants on the Programme, sharing learnings and insights gained from the Programme as well as previous expertise regarding the challenges of multi-vendor end-to-end solutions
  • Regular interactions with the Digital Catapult Technology and Innovation Practice team to support technical activities on the programme as well as learn best practice.
  • Diagnostic sessions with your leadership team to determine current technological, commercial and strategic needs.
  • Receive brand exposure on all Digital Catapult and SONIC platforms by being part of the programme
  • The opportunity to be an Alumni of the SONIC Labs Programme. Alumni are able to network with their peers, stay up-to-date with Digital Catapult activities of specific interest and attend closed or exclusive events and, subject to the annual Assistance Declaration, may also receive the optional Alumni Opportunities.