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O2 UK Tests OpenRAN to Boost Indoor 4G and 5G Coverage

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 6,168
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Mobile operator O2 (Telefonica UK) has today announced that they’ve completed a successful pilot of Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) tech from Vilicom, which unlike other trials was this time used to extend indoor 4G and 5G mobile coverage in order to tackle signal blackspots.

At present if an operator wants to buy mobile equipment then they can often only pick from a handful of big companies (Nokia, Ericsson etc.), while the OpenRAN (or O-RAN) approach works to standardise the design and functionality of mobile network kit and software. By doing this operators’ can increase the number of companies able to supply them via vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology (this specifically applies to the RAN side of things – infrastructure, masts and antennae).

All of the major UK mobile operators are understood to be looking at O-RAN solutions for the future and Vodafone has even taken the bold decision to upgrade 2,600 sites (here), mostly in rural Wales and South West England, with similar technology. But full deployment on that won’t even start until 2022 and will then run until 2027.

However, O-RAN isn’t just about tackling outdoor network coverage. O2’s recent pilot with Vilicom also sought to improve indoor connectivity for their business customers by harnessing a new O-RAN based Connectivity-as-a-Service (CaaS) network platform.

Vilicom’s infrastructure was developed in partnership with Mavenir using its Cloud RAN technology aligned to the JOTS Neutral Host In-Building connectivity model (i.e. a fully digital business model). O2 claims this CaaS network platform “streamlines operations, rapidly reducing the cost and space requirements of inbuilding 4G and 5G public and private mobile connectivity“.

Brendan O’Reilly, CTO of O2, said:

“Mobile connectivity is playing a vital role in rebuilding Britain and O-RAN technology presents an opportunity to provide better mobile coverage across the UK. We continue to invest in delivering the best possible network and are excited to be working with Vilicom to enhance indoor coverage for our business customers. O-RAN integrations such as this are an integral part of our commitment to deliver the best network experience for our customers, where they need it most.”

The plan now is to connect this pilot rollout to their live UK network sometime next year.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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3 Responses
  1. Billy Nomates says:

    I’m not sure what to make of O2. Back in 2018 when I was working in Wimbledon, O2 didn’t work in our office. I’d walk outside the office and BAM , missed calls and voicemails. The company bought femtocells, which can support like 5 or 10 people, in a company of 250 employees.

    But then flash forward to 2020, and their network does an easy 20-30mbits in Wimbledon. But still I get texts that say I’ve missed a call when my phone never rang. I don’t get it. I use all of the major networks (not the MVNOs) and O2 are easily the worst for me both at work in London and at home. I often hear people complain about three, it’s true in parts of london it really sucks, but when I get home it works pretty well. Even 300+ mbits on 5G.

    I wish the UK had actual decent 5G (but then again, I often feel jealous when a Romanian posts his speedtest.net results).

    1. Lucian says:

      Fttp is coming, eventually, then we’ll show those pesky Romanians who’s the boss.

    2. Ryan says:

      Both Three and 02 are a downgrade compared to EE and Vodafone, I would say Three is a tad better than 02 for speeds as long your not in one of them areas where three is hopeless, 02 got the advantage areas with limited 3/4G e.g countryside since it can fallback to 2G hopeless for data fine for call/text.

      I did do a speed test comparison of Vodafone and 02 yesterday in my dual SIM phone 130 Vodafone 22 02.

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