Open RAN maturity and interoperability: the emerging story from the labs

Brought to you by The Small Cell Group

This event will examine the issues facing Open RAN deployment and establish what is being learned from the labs created to explore this area.

About the event

Open RAN is a hot topic for driving innovation and diversification in mobile networks, and most Open RAN deployments to date are based on small cells. But there are many questions about the rate of progress for Open RAN before it can provide a widespread deployment option in UK networks, both public and private. Labs around the world are being created to explore these issues with funding from government, regulators and industry, including several in the UK. This event will establish what is being learned from these labs and the remaining barriers for Open RAN to have its vaunted impact.

Questions we will examine include:

  • Are the various Open RAN labs overlapping or complementary?
  • What has been learned so far about the status of Open RAN standards and product interoperability?
  • What is the timeline for Open RAN products to go beyond basic interoperability to delivering on performance and cost expectations of operators, neutral hosts and private deployments?
  • Do small cells provide a launchpad and proving ground for Open RAN in rural and urban macrocells, or is the performance and feature gap too large?

Speakers are invited from UK and international labs, governments, regulators and industry groups.

You can follow @CambWireless on Twitter and tweet about this event using #CWSmallCell.


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The information supplied below may be subject to change before the event.


CW welcome by Simon Saunders, Small Cell SIG Champion


Sponsor welcome by Robert Driver, Head, UK5G


Introduction to Small Cell SIG and scene-setting by Simon Saunders, Small Cell SIG Champion


Evie Ioannidi, Senior Policy Advisor, RAN Interoperability and R & D, DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport)


Learnings from the SONIC Labs: Simon Burley, Programme Director, Emerging Technology, Ofcom

Launching in the Summer of 2021, the SONIC Labs (a joint programme of work between Ofcom and Digital Catapult) provides an environment for suppliers to test the interoperability and integration of open- and software-centric networking solutions. This presentation covers the learnings to date from the 5G Open RAN solutions currently deployed in the SONIC Labs.


David Hutton, Chief Engineer, Telecom Infra Project (TIP)


Speaker to be announced


Jaisha Wray, Associate Administrator for International Affairs, NTIA


Panel discussion


Wrap-up by Simon Saunders, Small Cell SIG Champion


Event close


Simon Burley - Programme Director, Ofcom

With a career spanning more than 20 years working for telecom infrastructure providers and a mobile operator, Simon’s expertise covers the architectural vision, design, and deployment of all leading radio access technologies. He now leads the Connectivity Programme within Ofcom’s Emerging Technology team which includes the SONIC Labs - a joint programme of work with Digital Catapult.

David Hutton - Chief Engineer, Telecom Infra Project (TIP)

Evie Ioannidi - Senior Interoperability and R&D Lead, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)

Evie has a keen interest - and an academic background - in how telecoms policy and regulation can be designed in a way that supports both industry and consumers. After doing her MSc dissertation on the UK’s 5G Strategy, Evie joined DCMS as a telecoms policy professional. She has had the opportunity to deliver the Shared Rural Network, a joint programme between the Government, Ofcom, and the four mobile operators for extending 4G coverage, and she has done parliamentary handling for the Telecommunications (Security) Bill. Since July 2020, Evie has been leading the Interoperability and R&D team within the Telecoms Diversification Unit - first publishing the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy (Nov 2020), and then designing a programme of work to accelerate the development and deployment of open-interface technologies, like Open RAN.

Jaisha Wray - Associate Administrator for International Affairs, NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration)

SIG Champions

Simon Fletcher - CTO, Real Wireless

Simon joined Real Wireless in January 2016 as Chief Technology Officer, taking overall technical and technical strategy responsibility across the company. He has chaired various conference committees including the Cambridge Wireless Annual International Conference and is recognised as a regular speaker at industry events. He is a Small Cell SIG Champion. His long-standing association with the UK innovation eco-system through roles such as Director of mVCE and the Innovate-UK ICT-KTN brings a wealth of practical knowledge on open innovation to accelerate product and services delivery. Simon spent the past 20 years working in telecoms infrastructure systems and product development. In NEC Corporation he played a key role in the formation of Joint Ventures for development of 3G and 4G products and established a core team that developed the first-generation of technology for 4G systems culminating in a Steering Board position in the LTE SAE Trials Initiative (LSTI). In recent times he has directed projects on future cities, the application 5G and IoT in industry verticals with an event horizon towards 2030. His long participation in Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) and then directing Real Wireless engagement in H2020 5G-NORMA, 5G-MoNArch and the 2016 NIC study on Future Comms infrastructure brings great foresight on a range of architectural evolutions underway in 5G architectures.

Caroline Gabriel - Co-founder and Research Director, Rethink Technology Research

Caroline has been engaged in technology analysis, research and consulting for 30 years and since 2002, has been focused entirely on mobile and wireless. As co-founder and research director of Rethink Technology Research, Caroline has developed a significant research base and forecast methodology, based around deep contacts with mobile and converged operators round the world. This addresses critical issues and trends in mobile and wireless infrastructure, and particularly operator deployment intentions for 4G, 5G, small cells, Cloud-RAN and other technologies. She is also a senior contributor to Analysys Mason’s Next Generation Wireless research programme. She has led research and consulting projects with a wide range of clients, including mobile infrastructure vendors, large and start-up operators, regulators, trade bodies, government agencies and financial institutions. Her advice and forecasts have helped inform strategic decisions at a wide range of vendors, operators, start-ups and finance houses. Prior to setting up Rethink, Caroline held various executive positions at VNU Business Publishing BV, then Europe’s largest producer of technology related B2B reports and publications. She was the European content and research director, and was a member of the leadership team for VNU’s online business. She holds an MA from the University of Oxford.

Neil Piercy - AVP System Engineering, Mavenir

Neil has been developing base stations for various communications systems for over 30 years, during which time he has performed roles throughout the whole development lifecycle, as well as management roles. Neil joined Mavenir as part of the ip.access acquisition in Sep 2020, having been with ip.access since it was formed as a spin-off from TTP Com back in 2000. His specialist areas include security and networking, as well as a focus on all aspects of protocol design and implementation, and on system performance and simulation across GSM, UMTS, LTE and now NR small cell RAN equipment and systems. Now as AVP System Engineering he is responsible for the development and delivery of ip.access products, as part of the Mavenir group.

Simon Saunders - Visiting Professor, King's College London, Advisor, Real Wireless

Prof. Simon Saunders is an independent advisor and researcher with deep industry and academic background in communication systems technology and a burgeoning interest in the intersection between real and artificial neural systems, communication systems and music. He is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London and Trustee of the charity Music for All.

Simon is a specialist in the technology of wireless communications, with a technical and commercial background derived from senior appointments in both industry (including Google, Motorola and Philips), academia (University of Surrey, Trinity College Dublin) and regulation (Ofcom).

He founded the Small Cell Forum and chaired this industry association from 2007-12, growing membership to 150 companies and working with 3GPP to create the first standards for small cells. He acted as Director of Emerging & Online Technology for Ofcom, leading Ofcom’s Emerging Technology programme and creating their Online Tech team. At Google (2015-20), he worked with operators globally to enhance wireless connectivity via a range of advanced technology initiatives, combining wireless networks, artificial intelligence and network virtualisation. As co-founder and Director of Technology for independent wireless strategy advisory firm Real Wireless (2006-15), he was responsible for overall technical capability and direction, providing independent wireless expertise and advice to operators, regulators, technology and law firms and wireless users. In 2019 Simon organised the world’s first 5G music lesson on behalf of charity Music for All, led by famous musician Jamie Cullum.

He is an author of over 150 articles, books and book chapters, including a popular textbook on antennas and propagation. He has invented over 15 patented wireless technologies and served on technical advisory boards of several companies and universities.

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