Digital Catapult welcomes telecoms giants to new Advisory Board and Industry Groups to support Open RAN development

Posted on 14 Oct 2022 by The Manufacturer

Leading organisations from the telecoms sector, including EE/BT, Three, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone UK and Mobile UK are supporting the drive towards a more diverse, secure and resilient 5G supply chains, by joining new industry initiatives from Digital Catapult.

Digital Catapult, in partnership with Ofcom, has announced the creation of a new Strategic Advisory Board and Industry Groups to support its cutting edge Open RAN testbed, SONIC (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) Labs.

SONIC Labs is a programme from Digital Catapult and Ofcom, funded by DCMS, to allow new solution providers to enter the telecoms supply chain in the UK. It will drive forward the rollout of a new wireless communication technology known as Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN), which enables mobile networks to be built using a variety of different equipment suppliers.

The Strategic Advisory Board will provide insight and advice to the SONIC Labs Programme on its activities to support 5G diversification in the UK –  developing a model for delivering the technical and innovation capabilities required to diversify UK 5G supply chains. The board represents public and private stakeholders from across the telecoms ecosystem – including DCMS, Ofcom, representatives of Open RAN Vendors (such as Mavenir), System Integrators (such as NEC), as well as potential adopters of Open RAN operators and neutral hosts such as Freshwave and Ontix.

SONIC Labs is a programme from Digital Catapult and Ofcom, funded by DCMS, to allow new solution providers to enter the telecoms supply chain in the UK.

The Industry Groups, meanwhile, will look to encourage growth and investment in the UK telecom sector, supporting all players and organisations to maximise their role in the supply chain and innovate accordingly.

The groups will include:

  • The Mobile Network Industry Group, chaired by Mobile UK, will look to draw on Open RAN expertise from across industry and includes representatives from the four leading UK MNOs, including EE/BT, Three, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone UK. As key adopters of Open RAN technology and products, mobile operators will provide invaluable insight on new product requirements, as well as exposure to new innovators participating in SONIC Labs.
  • The Wireless Infrastructure Industry Group, bringing together Wireless Infrastructure, Neutral Host and Telecoms Services Providers to support the SONIC Labs programme and UK Government ambitions, with representatives such as Wireless Infrastructure Group, Verizon UK,  Ontix, Freshwave and Circet UK. This group represents the network deployment ecosystem in the UK, as well as being potential adopters of Open RAN technologies for neutral host in building and private network deployments.
  • A Testbed Industry Group will also be created, including commercial, public sector and academic representatives with a research focus on Open RAN and 5G diversification from across the UK and internationally. The group will include global testbeds to explore how SONIC Labs can support international companies looking to participate in the UK Open RAN market.

Joe Butler, Chief Technology Officer from Digital Catapult said: “5G promises greater efficiency and productivity for businesses, more scope to slash carbon emissions,  and better broadband for consumers. By understanding perspectives with key telecoms stakeholders on developments and needs in 5G supply chains, we’ll be able to support new entrants and innovators in making this happen.

“We’re excited to bring together influential leaders from across telecommunications to help drive forward our SONIC Labs programme, supporting the aim to help diversify the UK 5G supply chain.”

Hamish MacLeod, Director at Mobile UK, said: “Mobile UK and the UK’s mobile network operators welcome the opportunity to support SONIC Labs as a member of its Advisory Board and MNO Industry Group. Diversifying the UK’s 5G supply chain is of great strategic importance and SONIC Labs will play a key role in progressing this work.”

Sachin Jogia, Ofcom’s Chief Technology Officer, said: “The SONIC Labs project is playing a vital role in supporting the telecoms supply chains of the future – helping to make sure they are safe, secure and open to a diverse range of suppliers. To have some of the telecoms industry’s leading companies involved is another major step forwards, and we’re delighted to have them on board. Their expertise and real-world experience of operating telecoms networks will be crucial as this innovative project enters its next phase.”

The first board and industry group meetings will take place this Autumn, with the groups set to provide strategic guidance for the duration of the SONIC Labs programme.

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