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June 19, 2023
Virgin Media O2 has extended its RAN deal with Nokia as part of an ongoing overhaul of its mobile networks.
Announced on Monday, the three-year contract covers southern parts of the UK, including London, and will see Nokia supply kit from its AirScale portfolio, including its Single RAN solution that enables one base station to simultaneously operate the telco’s 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G networks.
Nokia will also supply its Habrok massive MIMO radios and AirScale Baseband and Interleaved Passive Active Antennas (IPAA). Both are powered by Nokia’s latest ReefShark System-on-Chip (SoC) technology, which it claims uses 30% less energy and offers a 40% reduction in weight and volume.
“We continue to invest in our network upgrading and expanding our 4G and 5G networks to customers across the country,” said VMO2 CTO Jeanie York, in a statement.
VMO2 aims to cover 50% of the population with 5G this year.
“Continuing our partnership with Nokia will help us to deliver even better 5G with higher speeds and lower latency, as well as ensuring we are set up for future growth in line with our customers’ ever-evolving demands and needs,” York said.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this deal though is the snippet that says VMO2 also has the option to launch a pilot of Nokia’s RAN intelligent controller (RIC). It paves the way for VMO2 to demonstrate new 5G use cases, and pilot a 5G cloud RAN service in future.
It’s interesting because VMO2 in July 2021 awarded a 5G standalone (SA) deal to Ericsson, which included the deployment of a cloud-native core network hosted on Ericsson’s infrastructure in VMO2’s data centres. And in March this year, VMO2 awarded Ericsson a contract to upgrade its 4G and 5G networks across the UK and Ireland, which – similarly to today’s announcement – also included an option to try out Ericsson’s Cloud RAN solution.
Extending its partnership with Nokia, and potentially piloting its RIC, shows there should be room for multiple RAN suppliers once comms providers like VMO2 have made the move to cloud-native networking.
“Virgin Media O2 is a long-standing partner of over twenty years and this new deal is a testament to their continued trust in our technology leadership,” said Tommi Uitto, president of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “This extended deal will see even more people benefit from enhanced mobile connectivity delivered by our latest generation of AirScale solutions that will help build the foundations for the United Kingdom’s digital transformation.”
In addition to trying out both Ericsson and Nokia’s cloud RAN solutions, VMO2 has also been making steady progress with Open RAN, which promises to add even more vendors into the mix.
In April it selected network software maker Mavenir to supply its cloud-native, open vRAN solution to sites throughout its footprint. That followed on from VMO2 switching on its first commercial open RAN sites in Northamptonshire last summer in partnership with NEC and Rakuten. Since March 2022, it has also been using virtualisation specialist VMware’s Telco Cloud Infrastructure solutions to design, build, test and implement virtualised network functions.
Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.
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