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Government Awards £88m to 19 UK 5G Open Network Projects

Thursday, Sep 14th, 2023 (11:57 am) - Score 2,616

The UK Government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has today announced the names of 19 successful projects that have secured a slice of £88m in funding to help support the development of open network solutions, such as 4G and 5G based OpenRAN on mobile networks and other technologies.

The projects – part of the Open Networks Ecosystem Competition (ONE) – represent the next phase of the UK’s Open Networks Research and Development (R&D) Fund. The funding will go toward projects that help to develop a range of software and hardware products to help further the adoption of open and interoperable technologies for digital networks.

PICTURED – TOP: An OpenRAN mast deployed by Vodafone.

The competition was designed to demonstrate how this new way of building mobile networks can deliver fast, dependable connectivity in busy places where many people need wireless and mobile broadband connections. Instead of using only one company’s equipment, Open Radio Access Networks (O-RAN) enables different companies’ technology to work together, which can make the network better and more flexible. 

The projects, which are due to run until March 2025, will initiate trials of open 5G networks across the country, in: 

  • Major urban centres in Glasgow, Cambridge, Liverpool, Bath, and the City of London 
  • Iconic sports and entertainment venues including Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, the National eSport Arena, Cambridge Corn Exchange, and Shelsley Walsh motorsport venue 
  • The historic seaside resorts of Blackpool and Worthing 

At this point it’s worth reminding readers that the major mobile network operators – EE (BT), Three UK, O2 (Virgin Media), and Vodafone – have endorsed the UK’s Open RAN Principles, which sets an ambition for 35% of the UK’s network traffic to pass through open and interoperable Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies by 2030.

Sir John Whittingdale, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, said:

“Whether you’re in a busy city centre or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital to staying in touch, accessing services and doing business.

In order to secure that, we need to embrace a diverse and secure range of technology that will underpin the network.

The projects we’re backing today with £88 million in Government research and development investment will use innovative Open RAN solutions to make our mobile networks more adaptable and resilient, with future-proofed technology to support bringing lightning-fast connections across the country for many years to come.”

Readers will no doubt want to know the who, what, when and where of the successful projects, so here’s a long list:

5G MoDE (HDD on wheels)

Location: Reading
Funding amount: £1,508,807.82
Partners: Virgin Media O2, Mavenir, VMWare & University of Surrey
Project description
MoDE (Mobile oRAN for highly Dense Environments), seeks to revolutionise how we manage dense mobile network traffic using oRAN.

Led by VMO2, our consortium will develop and demonstrate the effectiveness of the 5G MoDE concept in real-world scenarios. Mavenir, a key consortium member and technical lead, and will provide essential hardware, software, and services.

5G MoDE is not just about winning a competition; it’s about redefining the future of mobile connectivity, one open network at a time. Our project aims to have a significant impact on the high-density mobile traffic landscape, driving the adoption of open mobile networks and creating a more connected and empowered world.

Through this project, we envision overcoming the challenges of high-density mobile network traffic by leveraging advanced technologies and intelligent design. Our focus areas include a RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) Intelligence, power-saving and capacity optimisation, centralised cloud units, zero-footprint implementation, and Massive MIMO AAUs. By combining these elements, we aim to enhance spectrum efficiency, reduce energy consumption, optimise network capacity, minimise environmental impact, and provide superior service even in densely populated areas.

5G SWaP+C (Size, Weight and Power + Cost)

Location: South Wales and Ipswich
Funding amount: £1,211,896.55
Partners: BT, Space Forge and Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult
Project description
The 5G SwaP-C project aims to revolutionise wireless communication technology by developing high-frequency and energy-efficient ultra wide band gap power amplifiers for massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) systems. These systems are essential for the growth and capacity of the UK’s mobile telecommunications network.

The project brings together the Compound Semiconductor Applications (CSA) Catapult , Space Forge and BT to collaborate on this ground-breaking research and development endeavour. The key focus is on producing and utilising alternative ultra wide band gap materials alongside RF GaN to create state of the art, efficient power amplifiers.

The use of alternative wide band gap materials in Radio Frequency Gallium Nitride power amplifiers offers significant advantages in thermal efficiency. This enables the devices to operate at higher frequencies and faster speeds, meeting the increasing demands for wireless bandwidth in the 5G and future 6G networks. By leveraging the exceptional thermal properties of wide band gap materials, these power amplifiers can run more efficiently, resulting in reduced power consumption and improved overall system cost for telecom operators like BT.

The project aligns with the UK’s strategic goals of creating a sovereign supply chain for wireless infrastructure components, ensuring the security and resilience of the country’s telecommunications network. By developing advanced power amplifier technologies and enhancing energy efficiency in radio units, the project aims to lower operational costs and provide globally competitive mobile services.

Overall, the 5G SWaP-C project aims to pave the way for advanced wireless communication systems, delivering faster and more efficient connectivity while supporting the UK’s economic growth and national security.

ARIANE (Accelerating RAN Intelligence Across Network Ecosystems

Location: London.
Funding amount: £6,004,167.61
Partners: Telecom Infra Project, British Telecommunications plc, Accenture UK Limited, Amdocs UK Limited, Arqit UK Limited, HCL Technologies UK Limited, Reply UK Limited trading as Net Reply UK, Viavi Solutions UK Limited, VMWare UK Limited, Adtran (non-funded)
Project description
ARIANE aims to test – under carrier grade conditions, the impact on an Open RAN network of multiple apps running individually and concurrently in a multi-RIC environment.  The outcomes include results of testing a set of prioritised purpose-built AI/ML applications on network performance, as well as insights for the standards community on conflict management, security-by-design, and interface performance.

BEACH (Worthing)

Location: Worthing, West Sussex.
Funding amount: £3,144,056
Partners: Dense Air Limited, West Sussex County Council, Radisys UK Limited, University of Glasgow, Sitenna, VMware UK Limited
Project description
BEACH is led by Dense Air, with partners West Sussex County Council and technology providers Radisys UK, VM Ware, Sitenna, and the University of Glasgow, to implement an energy efficient shared mobile network responding to increasing user demand.

Worthing, is a popular south coast holiday destination, challenged with seasonal fluctuations in visitor numbers around a busy calendar, supporting the growth of a lively shore centric hospitality, sports, and retail economy.

BEACH will develop and deploy optimised, low impact 4G/5G small cells along the beach promenade and town centre. This scalable, shared cellular network solution, will include intelligent network power management, capable of flexing capacity to supply the connectivity needs of users during peak demand, whilst also supporting West Sussex’s county-wide agenda to decarbonise by 2030.

Enhancing network coverage and capacity will support local Worthing initiatives which require dedicated connectivity during high seasonal demand. The development of a mobile app will demonstrate the improvement in quality of service and evidence of peak network usage.

BEACH is working with 2 UK-based mobile network operators to ensure the shared wireless infrastructure deployed is aligned with the Joint Operator Technical Specification Framework.

1Beach Energy-efficient Accessed Cluster for High-demand Project utilising O-RAN (Open Radio Access Network)

Cambridgeshire Open RAN Ecosystem

Location: Cambridge (Deployment) and London (Lab Testing)
Funding amount: £6,523,645
Partners: AWTG, Benetel, Ontix, Wolfram, University of Surrey & University of Cambridge
Project description
The project will deliver a cutting-edge, multi-vendor 5G Open RAN neutral host platform catering for High Demand Density (HDD) locations. The primary objective of this project is to cultivate technical expertise and gain invaluable implementation insights with the ambition to accelerate the deployment of 5G in similar regions across the UK.

This network will serve as a dynamic testing ground to develop and trial enhanced interoperability of hardware and software in HDD environments with the ambition of demonstrating how the costs of implementation can be reduced and simplified. The project seeks to stimulate innovation and encourage new players to enter the UK market by proving Open RAN in a real-world HDD test environment. The project team will work in partnership with mobile network operators in order to deliver these mutual ambitions.

By supporting the development of novel software including xApps, rApps & RIS to test the optimisation capabilities of Open RAN,  integrating devices including radio units into an Open RAN environment, and delivering community-oriented products such as an Augmented Reality experience that will both test the data handling capabilities of Open RAN and support the local tourism industry, the project will support the drive to diversify the 5G Open RAN Hardware & Software supply chain in the UK.

The Connecting Cambridgeshire team is excited to lead this transformative project that will unlock new opportunities, propel innovation, and reinforce the UK’s position at the forefront of Open RAN technology exploration.

Dorset Open Networks Ecosystem (DONE)

Location: Development servers across the UK with Dorset company Kimcell leading the work to integrate and install ARM-based Open RAN infrastructure at Dorset Innovation Park
Funding amount: £3,615,974.09
Partners: Dorset Council, ARM, Vodafone, Illuminate, Keysight, Kimcell, Neutral Networks, Strathclyde University, Telint, Wildanet
Project description
The Dorset Open Network Ecosystem (DONE) builds on the innovative work already undertaken by Dorset Council in collaboration with other consortium partners, including the multi-award winning 5G RuralDorset and Wessex Digital Infrastructure Accelerator (WDIA) projects.

The aim of the project is to further define the blueprint for rural connectivity by advancing development of open-source Radio Access Networks (RANs) and examining the use of technology alternatives to standard network equipment. This will help to make the roll out of telecommunications infrastructure in rural and hard to reach areas cheaper, faster and more environmentally friendly.

Energy-efficient Composable Optical Topologies for Assembled Processing (ECO-TAP):

Location: Leeds and London
Funding amount: £2.26 milion
Partners: Ultracell Networks Ltd / King’s College London
Project description
ICT has a carbon footprint comparable with that of the global aviation industry. The ECO-TAP project’s vision is to improve the energy efficiency of the networks that interconnect disaggregated servers in data centres (that is, bespoke racks of only CPUs, or memory or network interface cards) by introducing a new Hybrid Cellular-Switched Topology. Doing this will also improve the resource utilisation of servers through disaggregation.

ECO-TAP has the following novel aspects. It will firstly develop new data centre network architectures optimised for energy efficient disaggregation of servers, and develop new algorithms for the energy efficient composition of the disaggregated servers. Secondly, it will capture the key innovations in demonstrators to verify and refine the approaches. It addresses the 3 ONE competition themes by building on our new ‘Processing Steering’ concept introduced in DSIT ECO-RAN project thus addressing HDD environments; introducing machine learning (ML) for processing steering in RIC and introducing for the first time server disaggregation in Open RAN for processors.

FoFoRAN  (Factory of Future)

Location: AMRC North-West, Roy Chadwick Way, Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone, Mellor Brook, Blackburn BB2 7HP
Funding amount: £2,714,375.08
Partners: AMRC (University of Sheffield), Dassault Systemes, aql, Productive machines, Safenetics
Project description
Industry 4.0 has pushed organisations to digitise manufacturing. Intelligent machines, internet of things, AI, cobot mobile robot and mixed reality technologies are becoming accelerators to gain commercial advantage for the UK in future markets and put the UK ahead as global leaders in this field. They are now evolving as essential elements of NextGen factories and connected supply chains, but they demand greater connectivity, high bandwidth, and near-zero latency of the network to function effectively.

Currently the manufacturing industry’s preferred choice for 5G deployment is single vendor/private configurations. This is affordable for larger/Tier 1 manufactures, but is not for SMEs, nor suitable for wider manufacturing supply chain interconnections, which vary in size, digital skill set, readiness, and financial capacity. Individual manufacturers need the freedom to choose different levels of vendors, services and technical features at varying costs. These options need to be interoperable, secure, reliable, affordable to the entire manufacturing supply chain.

Working from AMRC North-West in Blackburn, FoFoRAN will develop, test, and showcase flexible Open RAN deployment approaches for the manufacturing sector. Our consortium is composed of expert partners AMRC (University of Sheffield), Dassault Systemes, aql, Productive Machines and Safenetics. Open RAN components’ ability to customise and fine-tune the characteristics specifically for high demand density manufacturing factory networks will be explored and benchmarked against the single vendor solutions.

HiPer-RAN (Highly Intelligent, Highly Performing RAN)

Location: 5G/6G Innovation Centre, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
Funding amount: £7,895,362
Partners: University of Surrey, AWTG, Keysight technologies UK, Lime Microsystems, Viavi Solutions UK, Virgin Media O2, BT
Project description
The HiPer-RAN (Highly Intelligent, Highly Performing RAN) project aims to develop an open platform able to host diverse, software-based intelligence that accounts for the whole RAN architecture.  The platform will look to deliver measurable benefits at a system level, contributing to the acceleration of open-interface products and solutions, as well as to the development of an internationally recognised UK telecoms ecosystem.

HiPer-RAN tackles 2 fundamental challenges. Firstly, the development of interoperable, efficient, and reliable software for automation operating at different time scales. Secondly, the efficient translation of intelligence into quantifiable and measurable gains, enabling high-performance, energy efficient, and low latency operation at a system level.

As such, HiPer-RAN not only focuses on the challenging task of developing efficient and reliable intelligent software applications (such as xApps or rApps), but also on the efficient integration of such applications into actual RAN developments to enable measurable gains. Aims of HiPer-RAN therefore include:

  • the development of a highly efficient, secure, and scalable Open RAN Intelligent control (RIC) framework
  • the development of a flexible, RIC-aware, physical layer framework that accounts for design parameters and processing challenges of Open-RAN systems, enabling alternative ways of designing, developing, and managing telecom infrastructure, that differs from single vendor solutions

Liverpool City Region HDD

Location: Liverpool
Funding amount: £9,048,902
Partners: University of Liverpool, Telet Research (N.I) Ltd, Qualcomm Technologies International Ltd, Radisys UK Ltd, Attocore Ltd, ITS Technology Group, Tractum Ltd, CGA Simulation Ltd, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool John Moores University
Project description
The Liverpool City Region HDD project aims to showcase the benefits of Open RAN (Open Radio Access Network) technology in optimising real-world performance in high-connectivity environments. Open RAN is seen as a way to enhance the UK’s connectivity infrastructure by enabling networks of low-cost, power-efficient, and unobtrusive small cells to meet the demands of high-density areas.

The approach includes delivering a simulated environment for efficient network and application design and development, reducing risks in deployment. It also aims to demonstrate success in at least five live deployments of small cells in various settings such as sports and entertainment stadiums, campuses, and rail environments. The project emphasises collaboration with national and private networks to understand their needs and encourage participation through trials in a controlled environment.

The focus is on delivering competitive solutions with mmWave technology and simulation, providing workable models for the adoption of Open RAN in the UK and overseas markets. They aim to quantify and explicitly demonstrate the benefits to mobile communications markets and overcome challenges in assuring local authorities and asset owners of sustained economic and social benefits. The project team plans to showcase agile, easily managed, and secure networks in and around the Liverpool region.

Location: City of London, Midlands and Wales
Funding amount: £3,322,223.97
Partners: NEC EUROPE LTD, Freshwave Services Limited
Project description
Project NAVIGATE aims to design, deploy, test, and validate a blueprint for deploying open, shareable, public mobile 5G capacity in High Density Deployment (HDD) environments at scale, with Open RAN (Radio Access Network); the project seeks to validate that the chosen blueprint is technically and operationally viable, demonstrably more cost-effective and energy efficient compared to legacy Single Operator RAN Macrocell approaches. NEC Europe Ltd. is a lead partner to provide Open RAN solution while Freshwave Services Ltd. is the neutral host partner in this project.

The project aims to provide a small cell solution in the high traffic area in the City of London and support the multi-operator neutral host network to ease the deployment of Open RAN. This network would be able to be connected to all mobile networks operator’s core networks if they wish to join.

NAVIGATE will be differentiated from competing s olutions, in several ways. It will improve openness as outlined in the UK government’s Open RAN Principles. It will be a catalyst to lower the barriers to entry for new Open RAN vendors. Finally, it is based on NHOD (Neutral Host OutDoor) specifications and will empower MNOs to offer wireless services without the requirement of deploying and managing separate infrastructure.

ONE4HDD (HDD on wheels)

Location: The venues for where the CoWs will be deployed will be chosen from a list of planned VMO2 events which will be finalised by VMO2 at the end of March 2024. These will be a combination of sporting and music events and the ONE4HDD project will select 5 of these to run trials at.
Funding amount: £1,141,557.54
Partners: VMOo2, Mavenir, Intel, and Qualcomm
Project description
5G ONE4HDD, proposes a novel solution to optimise mobile network performance in High Demand Density (HDD) environments such as music festivals, sporting events, and major public gatherings. We aim to design and deploy a Mobile ‘Cell on Wheels’ (CoW) equipped with Open RAN (Radio Access Network) technology, offering reliable connectivity in crowded venues.

Our technical approach involves the development of a portable cell site, capable of serving hundreds of users simultaneously. This cell site will utilise cutting-edge Open RAN technology and advanced codecs to ensure high-quality data transmission even in the busiest environments. We will also explore the provision of services such as ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) video, social media, emergency broadcasts, and standard telephony. The solution will be deployed at a combination of five VM02 sporting and music events, to be finalised in March 2024.

Our consortium comprises expert partners from various fields including mobile network optimisation, broadcast services, video compression and content delivery, cellular radio technologies, and cybersecurity.

The project prioritises cybersecurity, with measures managed by the University of Surrey to ensure robust protection against potential threats. Our solution will not only enhance mobile network performance but also ensure user data privacy and security.

ON-SIDE (Open Network Shared Spectrum Innovation and Design Environment)

Location: Glasgow
Funding amount: £195, 444
Partners: Csco, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow City Council, AMD, University of Glasgow, BBC, Neutral Wireless Ltd., Scottish Wireless Ltd
Project description
The ON-SIDE project will address key challenges associated with deploying private 5G StandAlone (SA) networks operating in Shared Access radio spectrum, such as obtaining suitable spectrum licences and affordability of kit, while supporting the UK government and Ofcom’s broader telecoms diversification and spectrum management strategies. We plan to explore new methods for managing spectrum through a fully automated, adaptive system where spectrum could be released for minutes or event seconds. While cost will be addressed through testing of project partner-developed products and the creation of a 5G SA core solution specifically designed for private network scenarios – both fixed and pop-up.

ON-SIDE will test, demonstrate and evaluate these activities through a city-wide n77 design and innovation environment established in Glasgow and comprising up to 8 test sites. This will enable us to also demonstrate the potential for such networks to support and drive innovative use cases that require higher quality connectivity than is available via public national networks. These use cases will cover a range of sectors and application such as smart city solutions, remote broadcast and live production, connectivity for sports stadia and similar venues, and academic and industrial campus solutions.

One Western O-RAN (Bath)

Location: Cardiff, Bath, Shropshire, Worcestershire
Funding amount: £9,910,790.00
Partners: Telet Research (N.I.) Limited, Neutral Host Networks CIC, IQ Mobile Limited, Radisys UK Limited, cellXica Limited, Virtuser Business Comms Ltd, Antevia Limited,  West of England Combined Authority, Bath & NorthEast Somerset Council, Shropshire Council, Worcestershire Council, Cardiff Council, University of Lancaster
Project description
ONE WORD, the Open Networks Ecosystem Western Open RAN Deployment, will deploy a 5G Stand Alone RAN in 4 High Density Demand (HDD) scenarios; the City of Bath, around Cardiff’s Principality stadium, a set of popup event sites in Worcestershire, and Shrewsbury’s Quarry Park.

The project will be led by Telet which will provide the Open RAN systems integration, the core network and project management.

Open RAN components will consist of Remote Radio Units from Antevia, integrated to work with Centralised Units and Distributed Units from Radisys, which will develop a new MOCN gateway to implement an industry standard JOTS compliant Neutral Host. Open RAN small cells will be integrated by cellXica and others.

An OpenRAN Lab and Integration Centre will be created in Bath for staging of deployments and training technical apprentices.

A Near Real Time RAN Intelligent Controller will provide management and orchestration functions on the 5G SA Open RAN through xApps developed by consortium partner The University of Lancaster, using AI techniques to improve spectrum utilisation and energy efficiency.

Systems Integrator Virtuser will provide electro/mechanical design aimed at reducing size, weight, power consumption and visual impact.

PerceptRAN: Towards Maturing O-RAN based Data Driven RAN Monitoring and Control

Location: Cambridge and Edinburgh, Scotland
Funding amount: £2,347,827.99
Partners: Metaswitch Networks Ltd. (a Microsoft Company), The University of Edinburgh, Capgemini UK PLC
Project description
PerceptRAN has been engaged in identifying and addressing the primary challenges associated with Open RAN platform automation and security. This has led to the development of an AI driven, highly secure carrier-grade Open RAN platform blueprint. During this development, it successfully constructed a programmable RAN platform imbued with dynamic service models and a concept of a real-time controller to allow for adaptability in response to varying network demands and enable instant management of network and platform resources. We also constructed several novel use cases that demonstrate the potential of the platform including the detection of external interference, and a RAN live migration and failover system.

PerceptRAN will incorporate the innovative concepts we have developed into the Open RAN standard (O-RAN) architecture and propose the standardisation of the interfaces that enable the exposure of dynamic service models and a real-time controller to xApps. We will also develop the integration further and test the interoperability with multiple available O-RAN components including both proprietary and open-source components, thereby creating an inclusive and versatile supply chain. In addition, we will design and build new O-RAN applications that further enhance the energy, operational, and spectral efficiency of Open RAN leading to more sustainable network operations that are not only environmentally conscious but also offer superior performance in managing network resources.

PerceptRAN will examine ways to enhance the interoperability of Apps across RAN Intelligent Controller solutions and ease access to large-scale Open RAN data to drive intelligent RAN operations. By doing so, we are taking decisive steps towards a future where Open RAN systems deliver unparalleled services to all stakeholders, embodying the true spirit of open networks.

Project AURA

Location: Bristol, Ipswich, Northampton
Funding amount: £5,380,597
Partners: Parallel Wireless UK Limited, Kandou Bus Limited, BT plc
Project description
Radio units, which are deployed at every mobile network site, are highly custom engineered and  complex to manufacture equipment which limits options for production in a high cost location such  as the UK, and represent a significant proportion of the total power consumption in the RAN.

Project AURA (Agile Universal Radio Architecture) brings together a consortium to design a tightly  integrated O-RU solution with an emphasis on flexibility to target different frequency bands and  form factors, greater power efficiency, and with the goal to manufacture the product in the UK at  competitive cost.

Key to the ability to achieve this is the use of innovative new silicon chips and components. These, and the associated software that will be developed, are at the core of the reduction in  manufacturing complexity and power consumption which will translate to lower installation and  running costs for mobile network operators, improving their sustainability credentials.

The innovation in Project AURA will help support mobile network operators adopt the Open RAN  strategy, a movement being backed by the UK government and other governments across the globe.

Reach (Blackpool)

Location: Blackpool, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire
Funding amount: £3,144,056
Partners: University of York, Cybermoor 5G Services Ltd, Quickline Communications Ltd, Viavi Solutions Ltd, Virgin Media O2 UK Ltd, SafeNetics Ltd, Blackpool Council
Project description
Tourist hotspots drive significant volumes of mobile traffic, presenting a challenge to existing mobile technologies. The REACH project brings together an exciting group of partners to find new solutions to address this challenge by improving the delivery of data in High Density Demand (HDD) areas.

By developing new tools (xApps and rApps) for an intelligent controller (RIC), the partners will enhance different aspects of data delivery. The project will deliver 3 distinct Open RAN HDD trials that will demonstrate the technology using realistic data. Supported by Virgin media 02, trial small cell HDD solutions to mobile users along Blackpool promenade and Winter Gardens. We will evaluate and trial massive MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) by conducting trials in North Yorkshire or Lincolnshire for multi-tower Gigabit MIMO fixed wireless access architectures, using technology from Quickline Communications. We will Develop Cell Free, a massive MIMO at University of York.

The project has the potential to address the technical issues from HDD scenarios by developing systems which can be integrated into the broader telecommunications ecosystem.

SCONDA (Small Cells ORAN in Dense Areas) – Glasgow

Location: Glasgow, London, Reading and Surrey
Funding amount: £9,123,182.58
Partners: AWTG, Three, Boldyn, University of Surrey, PI Works, Scotland 5G Centre, University of Glasgow, Accenture
Project description
The SCONDA (Small Cells ORAN in Dense Areas) Project seeks to address the unique technical and commercial challenges of High-Density Demand areas and will be the first in the world to integrate Open RAN and Traditional RAN in a high density, high demand environment handling live traffic.

The SCONDA project will build, integrate, optimise and deliver an Open RAN network in Glasgow City Centre, integrated to the existing Three UK Core Network, operating alongside their traditional RAN. The Glasgow City Centre location chosen has been identified as a current hotspot for Three customers both in footfall and mobile traffic and the project will handle live traffic from Three customers aiming to provide improvement in both coverage and capacity.

SCONDA creates a small cell densification layer in high demand urban hotspots to offload the macro traffic and provide a better customer experience. The project will further enable automation of the network performance within the challenging radio environment of Glasgow City Centre. The project aims to demonstrate how Open RAN can be deployed, integrated and managed within the wider Three network in Glasgow and evaluate how open RAN compares with the quality and capacity of a traditional RAN network.

Sunderland Open Network Ecosystem

Location: Stadium of Light, Sunderland / British Esports Arena, Sunderland
Funding amount: £5,717,148
Partners: Sunderland City Council, Boldyn Networks Infrastructure UK Limited, Sunderland Association Football Club Limited, British Esports Federation, Perform Green Limited
Project description
The ‘Sunderland Open Network EcosysTem’ (SONET) Project is poised to transform the way we engage with live sports and esports. the project will showcase a highly efficient, state-of-the art High-Density Demand (HDDOpen RAN solution at the Stadium of Light and the new British Esports Arena, part of the National Esports Performance Campus in Sunderland.

Utilising cloud-native systems, Radio Intelligent Controls and automation, the cutting-edge SONET Project will create a Multi-Network Operator Neutral Host distributed antenna system that adheres to Joint Operator technical specifications (JOTS). This will deliver a solution  capable of providing high-capacity, multi-operator connectivity. In addition, SONET will demonstrate a platform that will reduce the total cost of ownership burden for Mobile Network Operators by connecting a HDD stadium to an MNO Core Network without the need for a large deployment of base stations, thereby reducing power consumption and space and reducing time-to-market. In addition, delivery of this high-capacity connectivity platform will provide customers the capability for immersive interactions that will enhance live-streamed football and global esports events.

The project will develop a UK first Open RAN solution, bolstering network performance and providing seamless connectivity on user devices, elevating the quality of experience for all users in HDD environments.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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5 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Sonic says:

    Could someone explain (using small words) what this is and why this is important? How is this likely to improve the ghastly mobile network that most people in this country are forced to put up with?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Lower costs, greater interoperability, more deployment options..

    2. Avatar photo Mark smith says:

      And why does the tax payer have to fund this? It seems bonkers the amount of money being thrown at this competition
      If openran will deliver lower costs to the MNO, greater interoperability for the MNO, and giver the MNO more deployment options, why on earth does the government need to throw money at it? Surely it’s a no brainier and the MNOs should all be tripping over themselves to adopt and roll it out..

    3. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Funding research and new technologies is a fairly normal thing for governments across the world to do, particularly if they spy an opportunity that could be of strategic benefit to the economy. The case for this becomes clearer when you look at countries that don’t put money into R&D programmes and compare them to those that do.

  2. Avatar photo Mark Smith says:

    I’m not questioning our government funding R&D more broadly, I’m questioning why we are funding something which the £multi-billion MNO’s should be funding themselves instead of of just paying lip service to.
    I don’t think that spending such vast sums on this programme is going to somehow compel MNOs to accelerate adoption of Open network technology, as they clearly have their own agenda.
    There are much better ways this money could have been channeled on.
    At the end of the day it’s all about outcomes and has to be.
    What outcomes are we going to achieve from these projects?
    Call me a cynic but I fully expect the situation to remain unchanged at the end of these projects. I.e. the MNOs will still be doing their own thing when it comes to network deployment of their RAN. And we will still be searching for use cases and justifications for 5g stand-alone to be deployed at scale, because most things today can be delivered using LTE and WiFi.
    In fact, wifi 7 will deliver more than 5g at a fraction of the cost and be far easier and quicker to stand up than 5g. Why is the government so obsessed with 5g and fanning the hype around it when it could be championing other technologies such as wifi 7 and openroaming and funding use case innovation?

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