Viavi projects gain Open Networks Ecosystem funding

Telecoms testing expert and partners gain slice of UK Department of Science, Innovation and Technology’s £88m 5G development fund to advance applications development over Open RAN networks

Just days after the UK government revealed its latest funding to boost mobile services through the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition sponsored by the UK Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), network testing company Viavi has announced three successful bids for funding in the £88m project, namely on HiPer-RAN led by the University of Surrey, Reach led by University of York and Ariane led by Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

The ONE competition is itself an element of the government’s £250m 5G Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, which is designed to foster telecoms research and development (R&D) projects including the Future RAN Competition (Franc) and the Future Open Networks Research Challenge, as well as entities such as SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (Sonic Labs), UK Telecoms Innovation Network and UK Telecoms Lab.

ONE was launched on 14 March 2023 with the intention of offering organisations funding to develop software and hardware products for enhanced open and interoperable technology, including funding for demonstrations of open radio access network (Open RAN) technologies in high demand density (HDD) environments. The ONE competition was constructed to help deliver on the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in telecoms R&D through investment in cutting-edge open hardware and software.

The 19 latest successful projects in the ONE competition are also designed to demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of Open RAN technologies and showcase their role in delivering resilient and future-proofed connectivity to UK citizens and businesses. And to that end, the ONE competition was designed to demonstrate how this new way of building mobile networks can deliver fast, dependable connectivity in busy places where many people need wireless connections.

The government believes Open RAN solutions will make UK mobile networks more adaptable and resilient, with future-proofed technology to support bringing “lightning-fast” connections across the country. Moreover, it regards Open RAN development as a cornerstone in its plans to diversify essential technologies in the UK’s national comms infrastructure and support development in the wake of removing technology from so-called high-risk suppliers, in particular Huawei.

The country’s major mobile network operators – BT/EE, Three UK, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone – have endorsed the UK’s Open RAN principles and are signatories to a memorandum of understanding that reaffirms the ambition for 35% of the UK’s network traffic to pass through open and interoperable RAN technologies by 2030.

The new projects will initiate trials of open 5G networks across the country – in major urban centres in Glasgow, Cambridge, Liverpool, Bath and London; sports and entertainment venues including Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, the National eSport Arena, Cambridge Corn Exchange and Shelsley Walsh motorsport venue; and the seaside resorts of Blackpool and Worthing.

In terms of Viavi’s work, HiPer-RAN (highly intelligent, highly performing RAN) aims to develop a highly efficient, secure and scalable Open RAN intelligent controller (RIC) framework with conflict resolution capabilities between its intelligent modules, and the ability to withstand external malicious attacks. Viavi is contributing to building the cyber security framework by developing what it calls an intelligent, resilient and reliable solution defining non-real-time and near-real-time RIC-aware threat models, monitoring signals through the interfaces, and training the hybrid intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems.

HiPer-RAN will also target the development of a flexible, RIC-aware, physical layer that accounts for key design parameters and processing capabilities to enable high-performance, energy-efficient, low-latency operation at a system level. Viavi will lead the work on integration, testing, deployment and trial of the entire HiPer-RAN solution for a number of scenarios and use cases.

The Reach (RIC-enabled CF-mMIMO for HDD) project will tackle the challenges of a high demand density network featuring small-cell technology, massive MIMO (mMIMO) and cell-free massive MIMO (CF-mMIMO) applications by developing xApps and rApps for the RIC that can control small cell activation, power control, mMIMO beam deployment, CF-mMIMO RU control and signal shaping, heterogeneous cell structures, spectrum usage and energy efficiency, while dealing with mobility and handover management. Viavi TeraVM RIC Test will support testing of xApps and rApps for mMIMO Apps, including traffic shaping, beam formation and energy efficiency.

Finally, Ariane (Accelerating RAN Intelligence Across Network Ecosystems) will simulate a real-world multi-supplier Open RAN small-cell environment with multiple RICs and xApps/rApps, analyse and recommend opportunities for security hardening, measure impact on RAN performance in different test scenarios with multiple xApps and rApps, and offer learnings for standards development within the O-RAN Alliance consortium. Viavi TeraVM RIC Test will support multiple RICs to test xApps and rApps for energy management, traffic steering, advanced traffic steering and quality of service-based dynamic resource allocation.

Viavi is proud to be a partner in the DSIT ONE flagship programme for Open Network R&D in the UK,” said Ian Langley, senior vice-president for the company’s wireless business unit. “We look forward to working with our consortium partners to overcome network challenges such as HDD environments, AI conflict mitigation for x/rApps, RIC cyber security, RAN traffic management and energy efficiency, supported by the Viavi UK Engineering R&D centre of excellence, based in Stevenage.” 

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