O2 tests O-RAN to boost connectivity for UK industries, businesses

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U.K. operator O2, owned by Spanish telco Telefonica, said it has successfully piloted the integration and operation of Vilicom’s Open RAN (O-RAN) infrastructure, enhancing indoor mobile connectivity for O2 business customers over Vilicom’s Connectivity-as-a-Service (CaaS) network platform.

O2 said it plans to connect the pilot rollout to its live network next year.

Vilicom’s infrastructure has been developed in partnership with Mavenir using its Cloud RAN technology aligned to the JOTS Neutral Host In-Building connectivity model.

The CaaS network platform reduces the cost and space requirements of in-building 4G and 5G public and private mobile connectivity for the UK’s industries and businesses, O2 said.

The carrier said that its business customers within the coverage area of Vilicom’s CaaS network will benefit from an enhanced network service including improved voice quality and data speeds.

Brendan O’Reilly, CTO, O2, said: “Mobile connectivity is playing a vital role in rebuilding Britain and O-RAN technology presents an opportunity to provide better mobile coverage across the U.K. We continue to invest in delivering the best possible network and are excited to be working with Vilicom to enhance indoor coverage for our business customers. O-RAN integrations such as this are an integral part of our commitment to deliver the best network experience for our customers, where they need it most.”

O2 announced earlier this year that it would be working with Mavenir and using O-RAN technology to enhance coverage, capacity and customer experience. O2 continues to work with a number of partners including DenseAir and WaveMobile to introduce O-RAN solutions in the UK market.

The telco recently announced that its 5G network currently serves a total of 108 towns and cities across the country.

O2 launched its 5G network in the UK in October 2019. O2’s 5G network was initially available in certain areas of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds. The carrier said that the initial focus for its 5G network was on highly populated areas including railway stations, shopping centers and sports stadiums.

The carrier is deploying its 5G infrastructure in partnership with Nordic vendors Ericsson and Nokia.

O2’s operations are headed toward a major transition. In May, Liberty Global and Telefonica reached an agreement to merge their U.K. operations in a 50-50 joint venture. This move brings together O2 with cable operator Virgin Media and its MVNO Virgin Mobile.

The combined subscriber base of the two companies, as of the end of 2019, was 46 million, and they would have combined annual revenue of £11 billion (currently $14.4 billion).

Liberty Global and Telefonica previously said that the transaction is expected to close by mid-2021 and is subject to regulatory approvals.

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