Digital Catapult onboards a further nine companies from across the globe to trial Open RAN in the UK

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Digital Catapult, working in partnership with Ofcom, has given nine companies the opportunity to accelerate the development of their Open RAN products, through becoming part of the next phase of its SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) Labs programme funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
 
The companies include both UK and global Open RAN vendors new to the UK market, such as VVDN based in India, SOLiD headquartered in South Korea and ASOCS based in Israel, as well as six other companies with existing engagement in the UK market, namely: Accelleran, CableFree, Effnet, Phluido, Radisys and VMware.


Digital Catapult will work with the organisations to integrate their Open RAN products into working end to end systems and conduct interoperability and performance testing in an indoor environment. The nine companies are the second group of organisations to gain access to SONIC Labs, with the first group of companies announced earlier this year. 
 
The SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) Labs programme aims to allow new solution providers to enter the telecoms supply chain in the UK. It will drive forward the rollout of a new wireless communication technology known as Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN), which enables mobile networks to be built using a variety of different equipment suppliers. 
 
This phase of the programme will focus on system integration, exploring Ran Intelligence Controller (RIC) maturity, and investigating ARM-based Open RAN Implementations. Three organisations (ASOCS, Accelleran and Radisys) will play the role of a System Integrator and will be responsible for End to End Interoperability, benchmarking and swapability experimentation. The System Integrators will lead the installation of software and firmware, as well as capturing optimisations and performance improvement measures.  
 
All nine Open RAN vendors will share best practices around the implementation of Open RAN standards, solve specific Open RAN integration problems, collaborate with new partners to create knowledge, and even have the chance to showcase their products to potential customers and end-users. 
 
Accelerating the adoption of Open RAN technology has the potential to diversify the UK 5G supply chain so it is fit for the future - making it more secure and accessible for new market entrants.
 
Joe Butler, Chief Technology Officer at Digital Catapult, said: “We’re delighted to be introducing additional Open RAN products from vendors across the globe to this phase of the SONIC Labs programme. We’ll be extending our leading technical expertise and lab facilities to help these nine companies to test their Open RAN products and solutions and support them on their route to market. 
 
“Through our SONIC Labs programme we’re helping to foster innovation across the telecoms sector - diversifying the 5G supply chain market in the UK and delivering fast, secure and reliable connectivity.”  
 
Julia Lopez, Digital Infrastructure Minister, said: "We are investing £250 million to boost competition in the telecoms market and drive the development of new mobile technology. This will lead to faster, more resilient and more secure digital networks which revolutionise people’s lives and make businesses more productive.
 
"Thanks to our funding for SONIC Labs, even more companies are coming on board to help deliver this aim and put the UK at the forefront of telecoms innovation."
 
Arnaud Polster, Chief Sales Officer at Accelleran, said: “We continue to be excited by the results we see coming out of the SONIC labs programme. Accelleran is fully aligned with the programme's objectives of creating a diversified and open 5G supply chain. Accelleran’s Cloud Native CU, RIC developer platform, systems integration capabilities are a cornerstone of achieving this aim. For the second cohort, we will also be integrating a 3rd party combined RU/DU into the solution, further solidifying our position as a leader in the development of a diversified Open RAN ecosystem.”
 
Alongside access to Digital Catapult’s advanced facilities and technical support, participants will also have the opportunity to take part in thought-leadership events throughout and beyond the six-month technical programme and will benefit from networking opportunities and targeted innovation activities to accelerate their route to commercialisation.

More about the SONIC Labs project

The participating companies in this phase of the project will be given access to the SONIC Labs facility to test their products and solutions including software and firmware installations and configurations of the Open RAN components. The Open RAN vendors will also work with the Digital Catapult 5G technology team to conduct integration, interoperability and end to end (E2E) performance benchmarking experiments. The experimental process aims to capture key results and learnings, along with trialling optimisation and performance improvement measures. SONIC Labs will share the lessons learned from this integration testing in the coming months. 

Participating companies include:

Accelleran

Headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium, Accelleran is an Open RAN pioneer, with software solutions enabling a diverse multi-vendor RAN ecosystem that creates greater flexibility, efficiency and reduced costs for operators and private networks. Accelleran brings the dRAX™ platform, which includes the Cloud Native CU, RAN intelligent Controller (RIC) developer platform and systems integration capabilities to the SONIC labs programme.

ASOCS

Based in Israel, ASOCS is empowering industrial enterprises to connect their production lines to edge applications by providing them with a cloud-based private 5G network and a scalable SaaS model. ASOCs brings a Distributed Unit (DU) and Centralised Unit (CU) to the SONIC Labs testbed. 

CableFree

A latest-generation Open RAN Radio Unit for SONIC Labs Cohort 2 will be provided by CableFree: Wireless Excellence, a UK-based equipment vendor with a deployed base of customers in more than 80 countries. Based on the Oxford Science Park, the company designs and manufactures high-performance wireless solutions including 5G Macro and Small Cell Radios.

Effnet

Effnet AB, based in Sweden, its 5G RAN software is a disaggregated solution with open RAN interfaces. Effnet is bringing its 5G DU software running on both Intel and Arm platforms, integrated with 5G PHY/UL1 from 3rd party vendors to SONIC Labs for testing and integration with RAN software components from other vendors.

Phluido

Phluido is a pioneer company in the fields of fronthaul technology and cellular network virtualisation from San Diego, California. The company will be in charge of providing the physical layer a Distributed Unit (DU) to the SONIC Labs programme, for deployment on Arm machines.

Radisys

Radisys, a global leader in open telecom solutions, enables service providers to drive disruption with new open architecture business models. Leveraging O-RAN standards for open interfaces and RAN disaggregation, multi-vendor Open RAN deployment is realised in SONIC labs with Radisys 3GPP Rel 16 compliant CU and DU software on COTS hardware with radio and core network from other vendors. 

SOLiD

SOLiD distributed antenna system (DAS) technology and O-RAN solutions enable indoor and outdoor cellular service at many of the world’s best-known and most challenging venues — from the busiest airports and subways to Fortune 500 corporate buildings, hospitals, hotels, universities, sports venues, government, industrial, and logistics facilities. SOLiD continuously innovates to deliver best-in-class modular solutions that scale to every need. For further information on SOLiD ALLIANCE 5G and GENESIS DAS in-building platforms, as well as Backhaul, Fronthaul, and O-RAN solutions, visit www.solid.com.

VMware

VMware offers a breadth of digital solutions that powers apps, services, and experiences which enable organisations to deliver the best customer service. Having established a footprint in core telco cloud deployments globally, in recent years VMware has been expanding its capabilities to address the challenges and bring a cloud- centric approach to the RAN. VMware will bring the Radio Intelligence Controller (RIC) to SONIC Labs. 

VVDN 

VVDN Technologies is a Product Engineering and Manufacturing company focused on end-to-end products across several technology vertical markets. VVDN in the 5G space brings a lot of design, development, testing, cloud and manufacturing capabilities for OEMs, Telcos, Test & Measurement companies. Within SONIC Labs, VVDN will be bringing ORAN 7.2a split Radio Unit (RU). With inbuilt low physical layer functionality, small form factor, four-channel MIMO support and an integrated Omni antenna, this device can cater to the ever-growing demand for high-speed data networks.

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