Global firms join SONIC Labs initiative for Open RAN testing

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Digital Catapult has announced that its SONIC Labs initiative, focused on developing Open RAN technology, is launching a new phase with the introduction of several international companies into its program. These companies will utilise the newly established outdoor testing facility in West London, exploring the practical applications and benefits of Open RAN in a real-world setting.

Open RAN technology seeks to revolutionise the telecoms industry by promoting interoperability among different vendors’ products, thereby enhancing competition and innovation. This could lead to more flexible, cost-effective network deployment and operations.

The SONIC Labs program – supported by Ofcom and funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) – provides a vendor-neutral, collaborative environment to test and enhance the market readiness of Open RAN products.

Lindsey Fussell, Group Director, Network and Communications at Ofcom, said: “The expansion of SONIC Labs to outdoor testing marks the start of an exciting phase for this innovative project. This is an important opportunity for the companies involved to test their products in a real world, outdoor environment—which includes managing the many challenges that come with operating a network outdoors.”

The initiative’s outdoor testing phase aims to address the complexities of real-world deployment, such as adverse weather conditions, variable signal strengths, and regulatory challenges related to spectrum licenses. This phase will help ascertain how effectively Open RAN can perform under everyday operational conditions faced by mobile network operators.

Dritan Khaleshi, Co-Director of SONIC Labs, commented: “Success of this new phase of the SONIC Labs program will be driven in part by granting access to both our outdoor and indoor facilities to the new cohort of vendors, as well as offering technical support and opportunities for collaboration with industry.”

The newest participants making use of the outdoor testing site include Accelleran, G REIGNS, LIONS, VVDN, and Pegatron, while ALPHA Networks will focus on indoor testing at Digital Catapult’s London headquarters. Throughout their involvement, these companies will evaluate key performance indicators crucial to enhancing Open RAN’s commercial viability and affirming the UK’s leadership in Open RAN innovation.

Anju Day, CEO of LIONS, said: “The SONIC Labs programme elevates the global multi-vendor integration of O-RAN to a stage aligned with practical deployment. It takes one step further from previous O-RAN testing activities that focused on standards compliance, interoperability, and performance requirements. 

“Cohort 5 shifts focus to actual outdoor field deployment, applications, and licensed spectrum, fostering collaboration among different O-RAN product suppliers for real-world scenarios. LIONS proudly offers its 8T8R outdoor RU product for high-density UE applications and anticipates fruitful collaboration with teams from CUDU and RIC suppliers.”

As SONIC Labs continues to advance and test Open RAN technology outdoors, the insights gained will play a crucial role in shaping future telecoms infrastructure globally.

See also: EU antitrust chief warns against telecoms mergers  

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