Virgin Media O2 extends Nokia 5G RAN deal

Leading comms tech provider continues business relationship with operator to improve connectivity in the UK and supply RAN equipment from its AirScale portfolio

Virgin Media O2 has inked a three-year deal with Nokia to supply Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment from its AirScale portfolio.

The extension of the long-standing partnership between the two companies – covering the southern parts of the UK including London – will see Virgin Media O2 invest in 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G networks, supporting its mission to deliver what it claims is a best-in-class network experience to its customers with increased reliability, performance and capacity.

The agreement will see Nokia supply Virgin Media O2 with its latest generation of Habrok massive MIMO radios and AirScale Baseband and Interleaved Passive Active Antennas (IPAA), both powered by its energy-efficient generation of ReefShark System-on-Chip (SoC) technology. This is designed to bring enhanced 5G performance to O2 mobile customers while increasing energy efficiency.

The equipment is said to use 30% less energy and provides a 40% reduction in weight and volume, helping minimise the impact on site infrastructure and accelerating network deployment.

Nokia will also supply its Single RAN offering, which enables one base station to run 5G, 4G, 3G and 2G technologies simultaneously. This will help enable Virgin Media O2 to accelerate its 5G coverage roll-out.

Virgin Media O2 will also use Nokia’s NetAct network management system to enable a consolidated network view for improved network monitoring and management. Nokia will also provide digital design and deployment as well as optimisation and technical support services.

As part of the deal, Virgin Media O2 will have the potential to launch a pilot for Open RAN using Nokia’s commercial RIC to demonstrate the promise of advanced 5G use cases. The agreement also means that Virgin Media O2 has the option to pilot 5G Cloud RAN in the future, enhancing the potential of existing cloud infrastructure with 5G wireless connectivity.

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Nokia will also provide its Digital Operations Centre to manage the design, deployment and assurance of services across different network domains. This includes an offering that supports network modernisation while ensuring the security of the network.

“We continue to invest in our network upgrading and expanding our 4G and 5G networks to customers across the country,” said Virgin Media O2 chief technology officer Jeanie York. “This is delivering superior connected experiences and supporting the UK’s digital transformation, which will drive long-term growth.

“Continuing our partnership with Nokia will help us to deliver even better 5G with higher speeds and lower latency, as well as ensuring we are set up for future growth in line with our customers’ ever-evolving demands and needs.”

Nokia president of mobile networks Tommi Uitto added: “Virgin Media O2 is a long-standing partner of more than 20 years, and this new deal is a testament to their continued trust in our technology leadership. This extended deal will see even more people benefit from enhanced mobile connectivity delivered by our latest generation of AirScale solutions, which will help build the foundations for the United Kingdom’s digital transformation.”

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