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O2 and NEC claim Open RAN trial success

Leading UK mobile operator teams reveal positive results from open radio access network test with IT and network technologies provider, including virtualised RAN software and hardware from GigaTera Communications, Supermicro among others

In the latest project looking to satisfy the demand for open networking infrastructure solutions, as well as building on the telco’s progress in developing such technologies over the past 12 months, Telefónica UK (O2) and NEC Corporation have announced a successful open radio access network (Open RAN) trial.

With acceleration increasing in the removal of essential network communications technology from so-called high-risk suppliers based in China, technology is suddenly gaining momentum. It is likely to account for $32.3bn worth of all radio access network spending – 58% of the total – and be deployed at 65% of all sites by 2026, according to a late 2020 study by RAN Research.

The UK Open RAN project was based using the O2 network with NEC and its ecosystem of partners that includes virtualised RAN software from Altiostar and hardware from GigaTera Communications and Supermicro among others. In the trial, NEC helped to define a customised Open RAN architecture, optimised and adapted to the requirements of the O2 mobile network.

Given its role as the system integrator for this trial, NEC coordinated the overall design of the system, which was said to have delivered a solid end-to-end solution and was conducted in collaboration with the aforementioned industry leaders. 

The company’s role also included end-to-end testing and interoperability verification by leveraging its recently established Centre of Excellence in the UK, which is where the trial with O2 was conducted, running via O2’s core network.

In the centre, NEC said it will develop highly reliable, high-quality, end-to-end systems using its expertise in the telecoms industry to develop, deliver and operate carrier-grade commercial products and networks.

The facility aims to ramp up development of the company’s 5G open ecosystem by pre-integrating partner Open RAN components to form end-to-end, commercial-ready technology according to customer-specific needs.

“We are extremely excited to be driving this journey on the home ground of our Open RAN Centre of Excellence in the UK,” said Mayuko Tatewaki, general manager of service provider solutions division at NEC Corporation. “Through close collaboration with O2, we are honoured to contribute to the diversification and innovation of network transformation.”

Derek McManus, COO of O2, added: “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.”

In January 2020, O2 announced a range of Open RAN projects to help its customers better utilise its network, and its parent company Telefónica is also playing an active role in Open RAN networks. The firm announced its intention to launch 4G and 5G Open RAN trials in Germany, Spain and Brazil, as well as building on early deployments in the UK.

In January 2020, O2 also announced that it had expanded its 5G network, and its live UK 5G locations  include Bournemouth, Cheltenham, Doncaster and Southampton, significantly increasing its 5G coverage footprint in larger cities, such as London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, Bristol and Manchester. This meant it could offer next-generation wireless connectivity to more than 150 locations.

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