On August 30, 2022, the UK carrier Virgin Media O2 announced the activation of live Open RAN sites in its commercial network. This deployment of a multi-vendor Open RAN system is notable for being in a brownfield network and demonstrates the transformative potential that Open RAN brings to the industry.
Following a successful Open RAN lab trial on Virgin Media O2’s network with NEC, Rakuten Symphony and other ecosystem partners, the field deployment in the Northamptonshire region is now operational to handle commercial traffic.
“The successful activation of Virgin Media O2’s first UK macro-sites demonstrates the potential of the multi-vendor Open RAN model.”
NEC’s world class system integration capabilities and fully open end-to-end solution, combined with Rakuten Symphony’s Open RAN software, edge cloud, and radio management and operations system ensured the activation of the macro sites while delivering vendor diversity and innovation.
Speaking on the successful deployment, Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2, commented, “The successful activation of Virgin Media O2’s first UK macro-sites demonstrates the potential of the multi-vendor Open RAN model. We are strong believers in the power of diverse Open RAN ecosystems and in NEC, we have a partner that really shares our view. Its industry-leading system integration capabilities are integral in helping us deliver the mobile networks of the future, today.”
“The activation of the UK macro-sites together, in partnership with Rakuten Symphony and an ecosystem of industry leaders, showcases the potential of a fully open network.”
These first live Open RAN macro-sites in Virgin Media O2’s network are possible after extensive testing at NEC and Rakuten Symphony’s labs in India, and at NEC’s Global Open RAN Centre of Excellence lab in Ruislip, London. The facility, equipped with state-of-the-art testing equipment, follows NEC’s design quality assurance process so that multi-vendor solutions can be efficiently integrated, tested, and validated before any field deployment.
“Rakuten Symphony's Open RAN software, combined with NEC's world-class radios and system integration capabilities, validate the transformative potential that Open RAN technology brings to the industry.”
“NEC is true to its mission to deliver the most open Open RAN solutions to the telecoms and mobile industries,” said Mayuko Tatewaki, Senior Vice President at NEC, about the deployment. “We have great synergy with Virgin Media O2 in this respect and the company is a true leader in progressing Open RAN in the UK. The activation of the UK macro-sites together, in partnership with Rakuten Symphony and an ecosystem of industry leaders, showcases the potential of a fully open network. We’re excited to be driving this innovative project that brings us a step closer to realizing our multi-vendor Open RAN vision.”
"Rakuten Symphony and NEC have complementary solutions providing advanced and highly automated Open RAN, edge-cloud and proven operational systems, and this deployment in the UK for Virgin Media O2 demonstrates innovation and technology leadership by the mobile operator," commented Chief Business Officer of Rakuten Symphony Rabih Dabboussi. "Rakuten Symphony's Open RAN software, combined with NEC's world-class radios and system integration capabilities, validate the transformative potential that Open RAN technology brings to the industry."
The Virgin Media O2 Open RAN deployment aligns with the UK government’s efforts to diversify future telecom supply chains, recognizing Open RAN's importance in safe guarding security, resilience, innovation, and competition in critical national infrastructure.
The system highlights the mobile operator, NEC and Rakuten Symphony’s commitment to continue driving Open RAN momentum in the mobile industry.