U.K. outlines open RAN principles

The U.K. government released a set of principles for developing and deploying open radio access network (RAN) equipment, which enables telecom providers to mix and match solutions from multiple vendors.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez announced the principles at the Open RAN World event in Berlin on Thursday.

“With so much momentum behind open RAN, now is the right time to set these principles so industry and governments can take a common approach to developing and deploying this technology, so it delivers on its promise to disrupt the market and spark a wave of innovation and competition in telecoms,” Lopez said in a statement.

Here are the four principles:

  • Open disaggregation, allowing elements of the RAN to be sourced from different suppliers.
  • Standards-based compliance, allowing all suppliers to test solutions against standards in an open, neutral environment.
  • Demonstrated interoperability, ensuring disaggregated elements work together as a fully functional system.
  • Implementation neutrality, allowing suppliers to innovate and differentiate on the features and performance of their products.

The government said the U.K. is becoming one of the best places in the world to invest in open RAN technologies and pointed to its £250 million 5G Diversification Strategy, published in November 2020.

The diversification strategy sets out where the government will remove barriers for new vendors, invest in open technologies like open RAN and work with like-minded countries to achieve the shared aim for secure and resilient telecoms supply chains.

According to Vodafone, it’s making open RAN a central part of its long-term network evolution.

“We welcome the government’s continued commitment to this innovative and exciting technology and look forward to accelerating the adoption of open RAN across the wider telecoms ecosystem,” said Scott Petty, chief digital and IT officer at Vodafone, in a statement.

Last year, the U.K. government announced a joint effort with U.K. mobile network operators for 35% of mobile network traffic to pass through open RAN by the end of the decade. They also announced a string of investments worth over £50 million in trials and facilities to develop new open RAN solutions.

Vodafone, EE, Virgin Media O2 and Three all agreed that 2033 will be the date by which all public 2G and 3G networks in the U.K. will be switched off, freeing up the spectrum for 5G and other future networks.