BT plays catch up on OpenRAN with help from Nokia

UK operator group BT has decided it’s time to put a bit more effort into OpenRAN and recruited Nokia to provide the RIC for a trial in Hull.

Compared to competitors such as Vodafone BT has kept pretty quiet on the matter of OpenRAN, apparently contenting itself to let others make the early running. This bit of news indicates the wait-and-see phase is officially over and BT has decided it’s time to spring into action. The choice of Nokia as vendor partner seems appropriate as it too must feel conflicted about a technology designed to undermine the vendor lock-in model that has historically served it so well.

‘BT today underlined its ongoing commitment to the development and deployment of Open RAN technology,’ insisted the press release. All we’re told is that Nokia will provide the RAN Intelligent Controller for a trial in Hull ‘across a number of sites’. This is a more preliminary phase of OpenRAN development than recently announced by Vodafone, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

“Our OpenRAN trial with Nokia is one of many investments we are making to boost the performance of our market-leading 4G and 5G EE network and deliver an even better service to our customers,” said Neil McRae, Chief Architect, BT. “Our high performance, high efficiency radio access equipment, provided by the major global vendors, has enabled us to roll-out 4G and now 5G at scale, with the confidence that our customers will get the best network experience possible.”

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved OpenRAN.

BTEE’s relative hesitance on the matter of OpenRAN is not unjustified. There’s a lot of hype around the technology with a shortage of real-world evidence to support it. Having said that, it is an inevitable technological trend, the pros and cons of which you can hear discussed on our most recent podcast. So long as BTEE is ready to rock by the time the technology is sufficiently mature to be useful, the timing of its first moves will be irrelevant.

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