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SONIC Labs establishes new partnerships with leading Taiwanese innovators to drive Open RAN innovation and investment forward

Digital Catapult, working in partnership with Ofcom, has today welcomed seven pioneering new companies to its SONIC Labs (SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre) programme, funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).

SONIC Labs is a world-leading programme driving forward the rollout of a new wireless communication technology known as Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN), enabling mobile networks to be built using a variety of different equipment suppliers. Its approach has put the UK at the forefront of telecoms innovation globally, and has generated interest from global companies looking to participate.

G REIGN and LITEON are two of the new companies with full suites of pioneering Open RAN products that will be joining this phase of the programme. These Taiwanese-based companies will benefit from closer international collaboration and will be joined by other leading companies in the Open RAN space, including Accelleran, Benetel, Capgemini IS-Wireless and WNC. Taiwan is home to world-leading Open RAN innovation, given its advanced R&D capabilities and commitment to developing scalable Open RAN solutions.

All companies will participate in the next activity of SONIC Labs, a technical programme running to January 2024. The programme will look to accelerate the technology development of Open RAN products, and expand the scope of the participating companies’ operations through access to Digital Catapult’s SONIC Labs facilities and ongoing technical support and expertise.

The focus of the technical activity covers multiple baselines and swaps, with the aim to test the performance and scalability of O-RAN components with multi vendor solutions and multiple units. Seamless mobility while moving from one location which is closer to one radio unit (RU) to another location which is closer to another RU will also be tested, while accessing some video streaming and verifying the quality of experience during this mobility. This will enable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to be measured to enable commercial deployability. The companies will also test the interoperability and end-to-end functional testing of outdoor Open RAN products in the SONIC Labs indoor testing environment.

Multiple vendors are already carrying out end-to-end Interoperability, performance and scalability testing in the dedicated purpose built space with state of the art testing and lab infrastructure. So far, twenty vendors and fifty nine Open RAN products have collaborated with SONIC Labs, signifying the largest concentration of Open RAN vendors coming together to collaborate in a commercially neutral environment in the UK.

Joe Butler, CTO at Digital Catapult said: “We’re thrilled to be extending our world-leading lab facilities and technical expertise to help these innovative companies to test their Open RAN products and solutions, and supporting them on their route to market.

“Through our SONIC Labs programme we’re helping to foster innovation across the telecoms sector – diversifying the 5G supply chain market in the UK to deliver fast, secure and reliable connectivity.”

Lindsey Fussell, Group Director, Networks & Communications at Ofcom said: “The SONIC Labs project continues to go from strength to strength, with eight additional companies having the opportunity to test and develop innovative technology that could be pivotal to future telecoms networks. This will build on the important insights already gained from the project, which is helping to inform how Open RAN technology can be an important part of the telecoms supply chains of the future.”

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said: “Our £15m investment in SONIC Labs is providing a test bed for telecoms innovation on a global scale, helping to bring cutting-edge wireless technology to the UK market and provide fast, secure, and dependable connectivity across the country.

“By creating a diverse and collaborative environment where different companies can trial their products, we’re ensuring that our 5G supply chain remains robust and fit for the future.”

Adrian Tung, General Manager at G REIGNS, said: “We are proud that as an O-CU/O-DU software supplier, our exceptional performance in Taiwan and the United States has solidified our global reputation as a trusted partner in the field. In our continuous pursuit of innovation and expansion, we are thrilled to be a part of the prestigious SONIC Lab programme.

“This unique opportunity allows us to showcase our unrivalled integration capabilities and demonstrate the cutting-edge potential of our 5G gNB technology to the European market, particularly important for the future of immersive technology in enterprise. Through rigorous interoperability testing with SONIC Labs, we aim to validate our solutions and set new benchmarks in the industry.”

Sander Su, Networking General Manager at LITEON, said: “LITEON is excited to collaborate with Digital Catapult and SONIC Labs, showcasing our extensive expertise in Open RAN architecture, software, and hardware integration. Since 2020, LITEON Technology has launched 5G/AIoT as one of its critical new businesses. Our success at the Small Cell Forum Summit Award 2023 and PoC with some EU operators, have positioned LITEON for significant progress in the UK and EU markets. We are excited to work alongside O-RAN partners in cohort four of the programme, delivering complete and highly flexible private network solutions. Our goal is to offer enterprise private network users a cutting-edge experience that is both speedy and energy efficient.”