At present, most existing 5G mobile networks in the UK are actually using Non-Standalone (NSA) hardware and systems, which can still deliver impressive mobile broadband speeds but remain hobbled by existing 4G services.
However, a pure end-to-end 5G network is known as a “Standalone” one, which brings benefits like ultra-low latency times (fast), network slicing capabilities and better support for Internet of Things (IoT) devices etc. Many operators are gearing up to deploy SA 5G networks in the future.
Now on to Open RAN. At present, if an operator wants to buy new mobile kit then it’s often limited to choosing from a handful of big suppliers (Nokia, Ericsson etc.), but O-RAN changes that by standardising the design and functionality of such kit and software. This increases the number of companies able to supply it via vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology.
Quickline’s new product essentially combines both of the above into a commercial product, which they’ve been testing alongside a number of suppliers, for the past two years. The company has now switched on its first mast using the same kit, which helps to demonstrate its ambitions and capability in the new sector.
Ian Smith, Quickline’s Chief Technology Officer, said:
“We are very proud to be leading the way with this technology. This is a UK first and firmly supports the Government’s ambitions to provide gigabit capable connectivity to rural communities and to diversify the telecoms supply chain. As a result of being involved in the UK 5G testbed programme, we have developed and commercialised a 5G standalone, cloud-native OpenRAN network which utilises the N77 [3.7GHz] spectrum band as part of Ofcom’s Shared Access Spectrum licence.”
The focus on FWA connectivity means that is this more about establishing private 5G networks for bringing broadband to specific areas, sites or rural communities – much as demonstrated by their participation in the UK Government’s £6m Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) consortium. The hope is that the new products will help to spread ultrafast mobile broadband to rural parts across the North of England.
The news come a year after Northleaf Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the business, while also supporting their plan to invest £500m on a deployment of “ultrafast and gigabit-capable broadband” connectivity across rural North England and beyond (here). The extra investment is already fuelling their own ambition to cover over 500,000 premises in UK rural areas via a mix of FTTP and FWA.