Digital Catapult welcomes new vendors to test Open RAN deployability in real-world outdoor setting

Today, Digital Catapult has announced that SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) Labs, an initiative aiming to advance Open RAN technology, will welcome a new group of international companies to its programme. These companies will have the opportunity to use SONIC Labs’ outdoor testing site in West London to explore the potential value of Open RAN in a real-world environment.

Delivered by Digital Catapult – the UK authority on advanced digital technology, the SONIC Labs programme is supported by Ofcom and funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), to determine the practical viability and performance of Open RAN solutions. The next phase of the programme will assess how well Open RAN works in practical outdoor settings, mimicking the conditions faced by mobile network operators, to provide valuable insights that will shape the future of telecommunications infrastructure worldwide.

Open RAN technology revolutionises wireless networks by enabling interoperability between different vendor products, fostering competition and innovation. This allows for greater flexibility and potentially lower costs in network deployment and operation, demonstrating the strategic global value of the SONIC Labs programme. The programme has established a commercially-neutral, collaborative, environment for testing the interoperability and integration of Open RAN products and services to accelerate market suitability. 

Testing Open RAN outdoors poses numerous challenges including weather conditions, background noise, coverage footprint, signal strength, and regulatory hurdles such as council restrictions and spectrum licences. Overcoming these complexities is essential for validating the efficacy and viability of Open RAN solutions in real-world settings, and the SONIC Labs programme aims to tackle these challenges, driving innovation and accelerating Open RAN deployment.

The new cohort members will be the first to use SONIC Labs’ outdoor facility and include AccelleranG REIGNSLIONSVVDN, and Pegatron. In addition to the five companies using the outdoor facility, ALPHA Networks will primarily use the SONIC Labs indoor facility located in Digital Catapult’s London headquarters. Over the course of the programme, all participants will also measure key performance indicators to improve Open RAN’s commercial viability, positioning the UK at the forefront of Open RAN innovation. 

Facilitating outdoor testing of Open RAN is important for the technology’s development, as new test-cases for Open RAN are explored and new applications of the technology are discovered, including streaming video content using Open RAN infrastructure. Building on the success of the SONIC Labs programme to date, the new cohort members will showcase the success of testing and deploying Open RAN solutions outdoors, as well as challenges and lessons learned, enabling Digital Catapult to pave the way for future advancements in global telecommunications infrastructure. 

To find out more about how to join the SONIC Labs programme, visit our website here.

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