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O2 UK and NEC Claim Success in Recent OpenRAN Mobile Trial

Monday, February 1st, 2021 (9:52 am) - Score 672
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Mobile operator O2 has today announced that they’ve completed another successful trial of Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) tech, albeit this time working alongside the NEC Corporation, as well as using virtualised RAN software from Altiostar and hardware from GigaTera Communications and Supermicro, among others.

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 OpenRAN (or ORAN) aims 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 looking at ORAN solutions and indeed O2 only completed a separate pilot with Vilicom in December 2020, which sought to improve indoor connectivity for their business customers by harnessing a new ORAN based Connectivity-as-a-Service (CaaS) network platform.

The operator has now completed another trial of the new technology, albeit this time with different partners. The trial, which saw NEC helping to design a customised ORAN architecture within O2’s core network via their UK based “Center for Excellence” site (NEC’s role also included end-to-end testing and interoperability verification), has now completed.

Derek McManus, COO of O2, said:

“The partnership between NEC and O2 promises to accelerate the provision and growth of Open RAN solutions in the UK. O2 will continue to transform our network through collaboration and the optimisation of new technologies such as Open RAN.”

Mayuko Tatewaki, GM of NEC’s Service Provider Solutions, said:

“We are extremely excited to be driving this journey on the home ground of our Open RAN Center of Excellence in the UK. Through close collaboration with O2, we are honoured to contribute to the diversification and innovation of network transformation.”

However, it remains to be seen how far O2 will go in deploying ORAN solutions into their live UK network. So far only Vodafone has committed to a major deployment, which will see 2,600 sites being upgraded (here), mostly in rural Wales and South West England – full deployment on that won’t start until 2022 and will then run until 2027. Right now, most operators are just focused on trying to build the ecosystem around which ORAN can grow.

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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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