In support of the UK’s telecom supply chain diversification strategy, which aims to accelerate the development and market readiness of interoperable network technologies, the government is funding SONIC – the SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre. Its mission is to develop and operate an interoperability testing platform that can bring together and support existing and emerging network technology suppliers, system integrators, operators and service providers to test and validate interoperability and integration of open networking solutions, starting with Open RAN.
SONIC Labs, as it is commonly branded, is a joint programme between the Digital Catapult and Ofcom; these two organisations provide technical insight and expertise and help set overall direction and focus, including the government’s approach to telecoms standards.

The SONIC Labs programme operates at a pre-commercial stage targeting technology readiness levels 5-7 (i.e. at the middle tier of the TRL ladder and in advance of engagements with potential customers or conformance testing).  SONIC LABS also include swapability testing with more mature products to confirm interface capabilities.

SONIC supports the development of an open disaggregated network ecosystem in the UK, encompassing a broad range of network technology suppliers from a diversified supply chain of interoperable network elements across the technology stack. Testing at SONIC demonstrates that a network component from one supplier could be swapped with an equivalent one from another supplier. However, SONIC is not a formal interoperability certification lab and does not issue interoperability certificates nor does it carry out conformance testing, quality assurance or customer acceptance testing.

SONIC provides different test environments, starting with an indoor environment, and planning to phase in rural and urban outdoor environments over time. The main SONIC test bed is in Digital Catapult’s office in London St Pancras with branches in Brighton and at Ofcom’s Innovation Lab in Riverside House. There are plans to create additional locations elsewhere.

Find out how to apply here.


Building a more competitive, innovative, and diverse supply chain for the global telecoms market.