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UK government and NEC announce NeutrORAN project

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Plan is to showcase Open RAN innovation for multi-operator, neutral host solutions.

The UK Government and NEC Corporation are to launch the NEC NeutrORAN project to demonstrate innovation in neutral host, multi-operator Open RAN with an ecosystem of players.

NEC has already supplied open-source 5G equipment to Japan’s Rakuten Mobile and expects the planned open architecture it will develop at a new centre of excellence in Ruislip, near London, to have the potential for global scale beyond the UK.

The project seeks to reduce costs and gain efficiencies, and bridge the digital divide that inhibits the progress of many rural dwellers and businesses all over the world.

This project is aiming to have 5G Open RAN live in the UK next year to test 5G: NeutrORAN will be one of the first solutions delivered by the Centre of Excellence.

Divesifying the supply chain

"I am delighted to welcome NEC to Wales for this innovative trial. It will help give mobile companies greater choice and flexibility in how they build their networks so we can diversify the global telecoms supply chain.

"The project is another step in NEC’s growing commitment to the UK and follows the establishment of the company’s Global Open RAN Centre of Excellence in the UK," said Oliver Dowden, UK Government Digital Secretary.

"We see this project as a catalyst for NEC introducing Open RAN into the UK and enabling the acceleration of 5G deployment," said Chris Jackson, CEO of NEC Europe Ltd.

Vodafone in Wales

It is worth noting that the first Open RAN site in the UK was activated by Vodafone in Wales, in August, at the Royal Welsh Showground Builth Wells, Powys, to provide 4G coverage, and Vodafone has said it intends to focus on Wales and South West England with its Open RAN roll out of 2,600 sites promised by 2027.

The first of Vodafone's first Shared Rural Nework sites is also in Wales. The Shared Rural Network scheme was agreed between the UK mobile operators, the government and regulator Ofcom in March 2020.