UK funds 15 Open RAN R&D projects, boosts SONIC Labs funding

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Dec 8, 2021

  • The UK government’s digital department (DCMS) has been running Future RAN Competition
  • Now the winning bids have been announced
  • 15 consortia are being funded
  • SONIC Labs also getting extra funding

It’s been a significant day for the Open RAN community in the UK: Not only has the Government set out an ambition for the volume of mobile traffic to run over Open RAN-enabled networks by 2030, its Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has also announced the results of the Future RAN Competition (FRANC) first announced in July, with 15 consortia being awarded £36 million in aggregate funding.

Helpfully, the DCMS has issued an announcement that details each of the winners, from the Proteus project that aims to develop “an Open RAN solution architecture that abstracts from the underlying hardware platform” (BT, Parallel Wireless, Real Wireless, University of Bristol, Wireless Excellence -- £3.7 million in funding), to the wonderfully named O-RANOS, which aims to “address key architectural and technological challenges for deploying end-to-end O-RAN multi-domain (private-public) interoperable network solutions” (ATTOCORE, Cellnex, Parallel Wireless, Satellite Applications Catapult, University of Bristol, Weaver Labs -- £1.94 million).

The full list of winning consortia, with a brief outline of their aspirations, can be found here.  

What’s most encouraging for the network operators that are desperate to see a broader range of companies involved in the developments of 5G (and beyond) technologies is the broad range of names involved in the collaborative groups – the big names such as BT, Cisco, Microsoft, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone are there, but so are AceAxis, cellXica, Teropta, Viper RF and many more. 

In addition, DCMS also announced that SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) Labs, a joint programme between the Digital Catapult and Ofcom for testing interoperability and integration of open networking solutions starting with Open RAN, and which opened in June with £1 million in backing, has been awarded a £15 million “cash injection” to help with its testing programmes and to encourage “international engagement.” The DCMS notes that the “new FRANC winners are expected to work closely with the labs.”

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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