British mobile network operator (MNO) O2 UK today (17 January) announced a new Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) project designed to ‘help customers better utilise its network’. According to the cellco, O-RAN will enable it to broaden the number of network infrastructure partners it can work with, in order to facilitate a better and more cost-effective network service for customers. The MNO has suggested its plan will be particularly useful for enhancing coverage in hard to reach rural locations, or ‘where a sharing model is more cost effective such as dense urban locations where large numbers of small cells are required’.
In terms of partnerships in this respect, O2 has confirmed it is working with the likes of Mavenir, DenseAir and WaveMobile to introduce O-RAN solutions, and it expects commercial deployment of the technology to gather pace over next 18-24 months. Specifically, the company has said it will work with Mavenir to enhance coverage and capacity in high-density environments in London, while coverage solutions are being developed with WaveMobile, whose current O-RAN network is active on ‘several sites’ across the UK – including Woldingham, Surrey where it already carries mobile traffic for O2 customers. The MNO has suggested that, in the future, the WaveMobile type of arrangement could be expanded to provide community based mobile services in so-called ‘not spots’. Meanwhile, in partnership with DenseAir, O2 is working at Millbrook in Bedfordshire to deploy 4G and 5G networks over an O-RAN solution; O2 currently collaborates with Millbrook Proving Ground as the public and private network provider of 5G connectivity for the testing and development of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology.
Commenting, Brendan O’Reilly, O2 UK’s chief technical officer, said: ‘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.’