Mavenir starts open RAN neutral host pilot with Ontix

Mavenir is teaming up with infrastructure-as-a-service provider Ontix on a neutral host model open RAN pilot for in-building coverage.

The in-building coverage is slated for an office building in central London, at an Ontix customer location. It’s utilizing Mavenir’s Open vRAN platform to deliver connectivity and capacity via open RAN-compatible small cells. Small cells units will be rolled out in the office building, while Mavenir’s open RAN platform is deployed at an Ontix data center in the UK.

It's a 4G trial using 1800MHz and 2600MHz frequencies, according to Mavenir CMO Stefano Cantarelli.

“We are excited to be working on this ground-breaking Open RAN pilot to deploy a neutral host architecture to demonstrate its flexibility and how the use of commoditized hardware, can help to create the next generation of in-building networks,” said Patrick Bradd, CEO at Ontix, in a statement.

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Cantarelli said in a statement that the partnership is addressing demand for locations with poor indoor and in-building mobile coverage.

“We are confident that using this innovative vRAN solution Ontix will be able to deliver a cost effective and a higher quality network to meet this growing demand,” Cantarelli continued.

Mavneir’s software portfolio uses open O-RAN Alliance-compliant interfaces and the vendor said it allows neutral host providers to deploy radio units from different vendors.

Neutral host set-ups have been used in places like venues and transportation to support a variety of users that need mobile coverage but subscribe to different carriers and eyed for in-building locations that are hard or costly to reach.

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One of open RAN’s often touted benefits is the ability to mix and match network gear instead of supplier lock-in, with software running on commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware.   

A July annual market forecast from the Small Cell Forum, including input from MNOs and other small cell deployers like private network operators and neutral hosts, projects the latter will play a major role in deploying Open RAN small cells for enterprise and indoor scenarios by 2026.

“In small cell networks, adoption of Open RAN architectures will be heavily driven by the new deployers, which have fewer concerns about legacy networks or supply chains, and want to maximize the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of their greenfield roll-outs,” the industry group wrote in a September 6 blog. “…network operators and neutral hosts will dominate deployment of small cell Open RANs in enterprise environments in the early years of commercial adoption of the new open platforms.”

Deployment of small cells supporting open interfaces in enterprise environments, by type of deployer. (Credit: Small Cell Forum)

This summer the SCF proposed a framework for hosted Open RAN networks combining elements of distributed antenna systems (DAS) CBRS small cells and Joint Operator Technical Specifications for Neutral Host In-Building (JOTS NHIB).

Updated with additional information on technology and frequencies in third graph.