O2 has announced partnerships with Mavenir, DenseAir and WaveMobile to deploy Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) technologies in its network.
The Telefonica-owned UK mobile operator said the open, software-defined network technology would help it deliver broader coverage more cost-effectively.
Working with Mavenir, O2 said it will enhance coverage and capacity in high-density environments in London, particularly in stadiums and shopping centres.
With DenseAir, a neutral-host small cell provider, O2 is working to deploy both 4G and 5G networks over an O-RAN solution. They will collaborate on trials of intelligent transport solutions at Millbrook Proving Ground, where O2 provides 5G connectivity for the testing and development of connected and autonomous vehicles.
O2 is developing coverage solutions with WaveMobile, whose current O-RAN network is active on several sites across the UK including Woldingham, Surrey, which carries mobile traffic for O2 customers. This type of solution could be expanded to provide community-based mobile services in ‘not spots’, O2 said.
Brendan O’Reilly, CTO of O2, commented, “Connectivity is a lifeline for consumers and businesses alike and we’re committed to delivering the best possible network experience for our customers. O-RAN represents a really exciting opportunity to deliver better coverage, in more places, more of the time.
By opening up our radio access network to smaller vendors, and as we look towards wider adoption of 5G, O-RAN will be part of the solution to bring the latest connectivity to more people around the country”.
The rise of O-RAN
In October, Vodafone initiated what it claimed were the first European trials of O-RAN in the UK and said it may extend them to more of its markets on the continent. It said O-RAN would bring new vendors into the mix, and that standards would reduce the cost of RAN equipment.
Orange, BT, Deutsche Telekom, TIM and Telefónica are among the European operator members of the O-RAN Alliance. The Alliance was founded by operators to define requirements and help build a supply chain ecosystem for O-RAN technology. When it joined in 2018, Telefónica called O-RAN "crucial" to telcos’ future.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of US senators introduced a bill to provide more than $1 billion to develop Western-based 5G equipment alternatives to those from Huawei and ZTE. O-RAN was specified as an important aspect of this work.
The Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to direct at least $750 million, or up to 5% of annual auction proceeds from new auctioned spectrum licences, to create an open radio access network technologies R&D fund to encourage a shift towards open-architecture, software-based wireless technologies.