Future RAN: Diversifying the 5G Supply Chain to unlock the full potential of Open RAN

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport chooses to fund CoMP-O-RAN.

December 8th 2021

Dense Air Limited, along with a consortium of industry and academic partners, has been successful in securing funding from the ‘Future RAN competition – Diversifying the 5G Supply Chain’ run by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The project, named ‘Coordinated Multipoint Open Radio Access Network’, or ‘CoMP-O-RAN’ for short, will revolutionise the performance and cost of densified 5G NR outdoor small cell networks aimed at delivering pervasive 5G coverage across the UK. 5G deployment and mass delivery of gigabit services by mobile network operators is critical to the economic development of the UK. CoMP-O-RAN provides a densification solution that can enable both public and private network operators to extend 5G coverage and capacity to areas that are un or under-served because of poor economics using either fully licensed or shared access spectrum.

Julia Lopez, Digital Infrastructure Minister

Our mobile networks play an increasingly crucial part in our lives and businesses, which is why we’re investing £36 million in cutting-edge projects to ensure our networks are safe and secure for decades to come. I’m pleased to see such an outstanding range of innovators are now on board with FRANC as we push ahead to build a more competitive and resilient telecoms supply chain.”

Successful projects from the DCMS competition for the future of Open-RAN were announced on Wednesday 8th December 2021 and receive allocations from the £36 million of 5G R&D funding supporting the advancement of UK based 5G technology developments. The competition directly supports the UK Government’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy.

Paul Senior, CEO Dense Air

“On behalf of Dense Air and our consortium partners, we are delighted that the UK Government, through its DCMS 5G Future RAN competition, has chosen our CoMP-O-RAN project. The technology this project will develop will fundamentally change the deployment economics and “cost per Gbit” of Open RAN solutions in the UK and other international markets.”

In partnership with Airspan Communications Limited, Blu Wireless UK Limited, Radisys UK Limited and the University of Glasgow, a consortium led by Dense Air Limited will develop an economically deployable 5G NR O-RAN Distributed Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) – CoMP-O-RAN. For the first time this technology will give both private and public Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) the ability to leverage the eco-system of 5G vendors in a cost effective way that makes 5G Supply Chain Diversification a reality.

Eric Stonestrom, President and CEO of Airspan Communications Limited

“We are excited to be a member of this consortium. We look forward to working with this prestigious group of leaders including DCMS officials, to accelerate 5G and Open RAN innovation, as Airspan develops new features in our radios through split 6 virtualization and embedded mmWave fronthaul transport solutions. We believe this technology will play a key role in future 5G solutions.”

Alan Jones, CEO Blu Wireless

As 5G networks begin to scale and densify, innovative ways of maintaining performance and bandwidth will be needed.  Using Blu Wireless’ low latency mmWave technology to enable CoMP-O-RAN will have a significant impact on the future economics of 5G NR deployment models across both public and private networks.

CoMP-O-RAN will enable future 5G small cell networks to benefit from radio processing techniques that are already utilised in Massive MIMO macro-cells. Importantly, CoMP-O-RAN will improve the operation of small cells in interference limited scenarios such as spectrum sharing in licensed and lightly licensed allocations in UK Shared Access spectrum at 3.8-4.2 GHz and US CBRS in the 3.55-3.7 GHz band.

Professor Muhammad Imran of the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering

This project is a great opportunity for algorithms and techniques developed by our Sensing and Imaging group to be implemented in a very promising real-world system. We expect that end users will benefit from improved experience and reduced costs of digital connectivity. We’re looking forward to working with our partners to develop the CoMP algorithm

With the support from DCMS the consortium will focus on improving the economics for 5G network densification, enabling better use of vertical roadside and indoor infrastructure to deliver lower cost, faster speeds, improved capacity and a better service experience for end users in urban centers, suburban neighborhoods and even rural locations. However, it is not just about increased capacities and faster speeds – CoMP will enhance service reliability and availability which is critical in many private networking use cases such as Industry 4.0, Healthcare, Critical Communications and future connected and autonomous transportation corridors. Real-world test and validation will be undertaken primarily at UTAC’s Millbrook Proving Ground, home of the successful DCMS 5G AutoAir Testbed project.

Peter Stoker Chief Engineer – Connected Autonomous Vehicles, UTAC, Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire

“We are delighted to be supporting the CoMP-O-RAN Consortium. The facilities here at UTAC are uniquely suitable for this type of testing as our proving ground in the UK is already being used for validating connectivity technologies and infrastructure.”

CoMP-O-RAN provides a network hierarchy where software and hardware components are distributed through the network, driving further innovation from specialist vendors which will generate additional employment across both software and hardware industries. This will subsequently lead to additional manufacturing and supply chain developments in the UK and elsewhere. Where possible the consortium will look to source components in areas of regional inequality, building on the UK Governments ‘Levelling Up’ agenda and industry 4.0 strategy to promote digital skills. 

Arun Bhikshesvaran CEO, Radisys UK Limited

“We’re excited to be part of this consortium focused on delivering a CoMP-O-RAN solution that integrates our award-winning, standards-based ConnectRAN portfolio of software for disaggregated O-RAN architecture. We are committed to working with our ecosystem partners to create advanced solutions in the commercialisation of 5G O-RAN and bring high performance products to the UK market.”

For more information or if you have any follow-up questions please contact: psenior@denseair.net / jeaton@denseair.net