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NEC and Freshwave collaborate on open RAN project to deliver next-generation multi-operator neutral host small cell solution for high traffic areas

NEC Corporation (NEC; TSE: 6701) and Freshwave have been selected for Project NAVIGATE in the UK Government’s Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition.

The ONE competition is part of the government’s £250 million 5G Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy for fostering R&D projects for telecoms, including the Future RAN Competition (FRANC), Future Open Networks Research Challenge, and entities such as the SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) Labs, the UK Telecoms Innovation Network, and the UK Telecoms Lab.

Project NAVIGATE aims to design, deploy, test, and validate a blueprint for deploying open and sharable, public mobile 4G and 5G capacity in High Density Deployment (HDD) environments. The project intends to demonstrate deployment at scale using Open RAN. Project NAVIGATE is one of 19 projects in the ONE Competition that aim to demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of Open RAN technologies. The total project budget for NAVIGATE is £7.42 million. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) of the UK Government will contribute £3.32 million and the remainder will be invested by NEC & Freshwave.

Project NAVIGATE sees NEC and Freshwave collaborating to provide a dense urban area in London with a small cell solution based on NEC’s Open vRAN software. The project aims to showcase that the Open RAN solution is technically and operationally viable, demonstrating that it is more cost-effective and energy-efficient compared to legacy single RAN networks. NAVIGATE supports the multi-operator neutral host network to facilitate the deployment of Open RAN, enabling all UK mobile operators’ networks to connect to it.

While announcing the winners of the ONE Competition in an event in London on 14th of September 2023, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, said: “Whether you’re in a busy city centre or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital to staying in touch, accessing services and doing business. In order to secure that, we need to embrace a diverse and secure range of technology that will underpin the network.”

“NEC is delighted to have been selected by DSIT to provide a Neutral Host, Open RAN, High Density Demand Outdoor Solution”, said Hideyuki Ogata, General Manager, 5G Solution Department, NEC. “NEC aims to deploy a reference architecture based on its Open vRAN software that will support the diversification of the telecom supply chain, while accelerating market developments to provide a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution based on Open Standards.

“Drawing on NHOD (Neutral Host Outdoor) specifications, our solution will enable mobile network operators to offer new wireless services and improve coverage and capacity, without having to deploy and manage separate infrastructure. NEC’s Open vRAN software solution is a critical part of the strategy for enabling the adoption of Open RAN on a global scale.”

Tom Bennett, CTO at Freshwave, said: “We’re excited to have been successful in the Open Networks Ecosystem Competition and looking forward to collaborating with the other members of the consortium. As a leading neutral host provider, advancing shareable infrastructure through telecoms ecosystem collaboration is in our DNA, and part of our day-to-day delivery for customers. The more shareable the digital infrastructure, the more reduced the costs – leading to wider use cases, quicker and subsequently more community and economic benefits. And our experience has shown that this all becomes even more true when we stay true to our fundamental design principle that the operators retain full architectural and operational control.”

Project NAVIGATE will deliver on the UK Government’s commitment to promote a diversified telecoms infrastructure in the UK that encourages greater industry innovation and collaboration. The project delivers improved openness in line with the UK Government’s Open RAN Principles and acts as a catalyst to lowering the barriers to entry for new Open RAN vendors.

For more details about the ONE competition, please visit here.

Lisa Baker is Group Editor for the Need to See IT Publishing Group. Lisa writes about HR, Technology, Health, the Environment and Business.
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