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DCMS provides £1 million for Open RAN research facility


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The UK Government has backed the creation of a new research facility, to be launched today, to focus on the use of Open RAN technology.

SONIC Labs will be run by communications regulator Ofcom and the Digital Catapult with bases in London and Brighton to provide “simulated real world testing” for the supply components for 5G radio equipment.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it is aimed at accelerating the adoption of Open RAN (open radio access networks), which involve the interoperability of hardware, software and interfaces and provide a pillar of the Government’s diversification strategy for 5G networks.

DCMS said a priority of the lab is to develop a 5G communication kit to help the building of more diverse and secure supply chains for the technology.

It said Open RAN technology will end situations where only one supplier’s technology can be used for a telecoms network to function. For example, it will allow components from different telecoms suppliers to be exchanged or used as replacements at masts that, until now, have been kitted out by a single supplier.

Vendors named so far as planning to work with SONIC labs are Accelleran, Mavenir, Radisys, Benetel, Phluido, Druid and Effnet.

DCMS has provided £1 million of seed funding for the initiative.

5G exploration

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.

“I look forward to seeing how the lab will help deliver the incredible social and economic benefits of new technology for people around the UK.”

Warman also said DCMS is developing a long term strategy for 5G and future wireless networks in the UK.

As part of this, the Government will be considering the role of spectrum, the finite radio wave resource central to developing these technologies, and set out how it will aim to ensure that wireless infrastructure plays an integral role in enabling the UK’s economy and society.

The Government plans to work with industry, Ofcom, academia and others to help shape its thinking and develop the evidence base. More detail will be announced later this year.

Image from iStock, Putilich

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