BT and Nokia are to trial Open RAN technology in the city of Hull, UK, where BT will install Nokia’s RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) for Open RAN, across a number of sites, to optimise network performance for customers of its mobile network, EE.
BT says it is committed to sustained investment in all technologies that deliver the best possible customer experience, including using open architecture wherever network performance can be enhanced. BT is therefore developing Open RAN, with its vendor partners, to ensure it becomes a viable, mature, scale option for network optimisation as soon as possible.
In addition to this trial, BT will also open a dedicated Open RAN Innovation Centre at its Adastral Park facility later this year. This will 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.
Neil McRae, Chief Architect, BT, commented:
“Our Open RAN trial with Nokia is one of many investments we are making to boost the performance of our market-leading 4G and 5G EE network and deliver an even better service to our 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.”
OpenRAN differs have traditional approaches to Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment in that it comprises vendor-neutral equipment with standardised designs. This lowers the barriers to entry and allows a variety of firms to supply hardware and software rather than just a select few who offer highly integrated cell designs.
Because Open RAN is more software driven, operators can mix and match multiple technologies and roll out new services more quickly. This drives innovation, lowers cost, and reduces the threat of vendor-lock in.
There are various industry initiatives to develop the Open RAN ecosystem and ensure that these innovations are both commercially-mature and interoperable.
Mark Atkinson, SVP, Radio Access Networks PLM, Nokia, commented:
“We are delighted to deepen our partnership with BT with this trial. 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.”