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UK moves to lead in Open RAN

  • 4 minute read
  • Published by Crispin Moller on 17 Dec 2020
  • Last modified 18 Dec 2020
Thanks to a grant from DCMS a new testbed is to be built by NEC. This forms part of the UK Governments’s strategy to encourage greater diversity in the Telecoms supply chain.

The NeutrORAN project will establish a testbed for a multi-operator, neutral host solution in outdoor rural environments, using Open virtualised Radio Access Network (RAN) principles. NEC will assume the role of systems integrator, integrating components from numerous suppliers across the world employing the new Open RAN standards.

These standards allow software and hardware components from disparate manufacturers to interoperate and remove the supplier lock-in of proprietary systems. DCMS see this as key to diversifying the UK’s 5G supply chain and enlarging the ecosystem. This project aims to see live 5G Open RAN within the UK within 2021, testing solutions to deploy 5G networks in the most cost effective, innovative and secure way.

As one of the pioneers in mobile network technology, NEC has a significant European presence with a substantial R&D capability in the UK, primarily focused on radio baseband. NEC has worked with the mobile operators since the first analogue mobile phone systems were installed in the mid 1990s and already works closely with UK MNOs via the Joint Operators Technical Specifications forum to develop the underlying specifications upon which the OpenRAN Neutral Host test bed will be built.

The operators and NEC are working together to finalise the solution architecture solution architecture and project plan so that they can deliver live coverage by integrating the NEC NeutrORAN test bed with the MNO’s core networks. The company has significant experience with OpenRAN, and as the largest telecommunications equipment vendor in Japan, it has provided an OpenRAN system to NTT DOCOMO. It has also partnered with the pioneering mobile operator, Rakuten mobile, to create the world’s first commercial end-to-end 5G Open vRan architecture network.

NEC is at the forefront of Open RAN development globally, and its equipment meets globally respected standard specified by the Telecom Infra Project (initiated by Facebook in 2016). NEC recently set up the global 5G Centre of Excellence in the UK to accelerate the global adoption of Open RAN and to strengthen its structure for accelerating the global deployment of 5G.

 Takeshi Yamamoto, NEC Europe’s Vice President, Corporate Strategy explained;

“NEC’s project will be amongst the first of many that will position the UK as a leader in adopting Open RAN technology. The development of Neutral Host models is consistent with the market expansion strategy set out in the 2018 Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review as well as exploring new solutions to provide improved broadband connectivity in the more inaccessible parts of the UK.”

Chris Jackson, President and CEO of NEC Europe (pictured below) further commented; “We are very excited to launch this project in collaboration with the UK Government. We believe NEC’s leading Open RAN technology together with our strategic aim of an open ecosystem can contribute to the UK’s 5G supply chain diversification strategy. We are confident that this pioneering project will help accelerate the 5G deployment in the UK and we are delighted to be a part of this important initiative.”

Chris Jackson, President and CEO of NEC Europe

This NeutrORAN project will also provide invaluable early insight to NCSC on the  security aspects of OpenRAN technologies, helping to improve the long term security and resilience of UK networks.

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