BT ramps up Open RAN trials with Nokia in Hull
As part of the new project, BT will install Nokia’s RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) for O-RAN across several sites, to optimise the network performance for customers of its mobile network, EE.
O-RAN claims to offer numerous potential benefits to businesses – such as greater network management options, lower costs, and a broader, more diverse ecosystem of equipment suppliers.
In addition to this trial, BT will also open a dedicated Open RAN Innovation Centre at its Adastral Park facility in Suffolk later this year.
The company said in a statement that the centre would provide opportunities for large and small vendors to develop and prove their equipment and provide a platform for open architecture progress across all network elements.
BT’s chief architect Neil McRae added that the trial was one of many investments the firm was making to boost the performance of its 4G and 5G EE network and to deliver an even better service to its customers.
“Our high performance, high efficiency radio access equipment, provided by the major global vendors, has enabled us to roll-out 4G and now 5G at scale, with the confidence that our customers will get the best network experience possible,” he said.
Mark Atkinson, SVP, radio access networks PLM, Nokia, added: “Nokia is investing in Open RAN capabilities to enable a robust telecom ecosystem with strong network performance and security. An open and programmable RAN enables many new advanced capabilities to be introduced that can automatically optimize the 5G network. I look forward to seeing how this project develops.”
The move towards O-RAN in the UK has accelerated in recent months with Vodafone laying claim to the country’s first 5G open RAN site in Bath – the first of 2,500 5G and 4G O-RAN sites that Vodafone has committed to deploy as part of the UK government’s ambition to accelerate the development of the Open RAN ecosystem.
Vodafone said that the 2,500 sites are expected to be fully deployed by 2027.
BT estimates that EE’s 5G network will cover more than half the UK population by 2023 (four years ahead of current Government ambitions), will deliver 5G connectivity solutions anywhere in the UK by 2028 and complete the country’s only fully converged network by the mid-2020s.
Late last year government announced that it had signed a new agreement with all four of the UK’s mobile operators, pledging to see at least 35% of all the UK’s mobile network traffic being carried over Open RAN infrastructure by 2030.
The same agreement also detailed plans to discontinue its 2G and 3G services by 2023, with both BT and Vodafone suggesting they will be able to shut their 3G networks as early as next year.
Subscribe to our Editor's weekly newsletter