The U.K. government announced the launch of a new high-tech lab designed to accelerate the adoption of Open RAN in the country.
The new SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC Labs) is part of the government’s efforts to boost the adoption of Open RAN technolog,y which is a major pillar of the U.K.’s 5G Diversification Strategy.
With this strategy, the U.K. government aims to build a more secure and innovative supply chain less reliant on a small number of multinational suppliers and more accessible for new market entrants.
The government said that the lab will be a real-world testing facility that aims to bring in multiple providers to supply components for 5G radio equipment.
Based in London and Brighton, SONIC Labs will enable telecoms equipment manufacturers to examine how their kit behaves in a fully interoperable, technology-neutral mobile network. The new facility also aims to encourage innovative vendors to enter the U.K. telecoms supply chain.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman, said: “I’m thrilled that SONIC Labs is opening its doors to the wealth of telecoms expertise we have in this country to explore new ways of building 5G networks. Our investment is a crucial element of our strategy to tackle the world’s over-reliance on a small number of telecoms vendors by growing our own cutting-edge solutions at home.”
The lab is being run by U.K. telecom regulator Ofcom and Digital Catapult. The facility required an investment of £1 million ($1.4 million) and was funded by the government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
SONIC Labs will work with a diverse range of vendors to explore new open approaches to telecoms networks, including Accelleran, Mavenir, Radisys, Benetel, Phluido, Druid and Effnet.
“SONIC Labs is an exciting project that gives us the opportunity to explore how new telecoms technology could operate in the UK market. It’s all about bringing innovation to our communications networks – helping to support fast, secure and reliable connections for the future. A number of companies are already getting involved and we look forward to more joining too,” Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said.
In traditional RAN, the networks are deployed using fully-integrated cell sites, where the radios, hardware and software are provided by a single supplier as a closed proprietary solution. With Open RAN the industry is working towards standards and technical specifications that define open interfaces within the radio system, including hardware and software, so that networks can be deployed and operated based on mix-and-match components from different suppliers.