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IBM and Airspan agree to get behind Open RAN and push across Europe

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Technology pact develops 5G inventions in labs in Munich, Paris and Slough

US vendors IBM and Airspan Networks have announced a joint mission to push the adoption of 5G-enabled Open RAN technologies in Europe.

Earlier this year Airspan announced plans to open a 5G Innovation Lab at its offices in the UK at Slough. Now it plans to extend that effort to France and Germany with IBM.

The duo are launching a 5G-enabled Open RAN testbed across the IBM Watson IoT Centre in Munich and IBM’s Global Industry Solution Centre (GISC) in Nice. The facility will exhibit examples of long-distance control using 5G-enabled edge computing.

Florida-based Airspan will contribute its Open RAN AirVelocity 2700 indoor radio unit and virtualised Open RAN Centralised Unit (vCU) and Distributed Unit (vDU) Openrange software as part of the collaboration.

IBM will provide its Global Business Services technology integration know-how, Cloud Pak for network automation and Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps (artificial intelligence operations). The brief is to help customers to orchestrate their edge cloud installations and applications more efficiently.

Ban left Huawei sized hole in UK networks

The lab has a full end-to-end 5G Open RAN system which will act as both a development incubator and a showcase. It features demonstration facilities for partners, customers and government institutions.

The UK government has increased its support for Open RAN development after its 2019 decision to ban Huawei equipment from its national networks for security reasons. Chinese state-owned Huawei had a major presence in the UK’s mobile networks.

“We’re investing £450 million to explore how 5G can boost the economy while building confidence and competition in this revolutionary technology,” said Matt Warman, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure. “Airspan’s new lab of telecoms innovators will develop cutting-edge 5G networks and help create jobs and a more secure and diverse UK telecoms supply chain.”

The main goal of the new testbed is to catalyse the process of creating multi-vendor networks according to Airspan’s chief sales and marketing officer Henrik Smith-Petersen.

“Critical collaboration with leaders like IBM could help the open architecture ecosystem,” said Smith-Petersen, “Airspan can stay at the forefront of innovation and industry disruption through end-to-end Open RAN.”

Open approaches and standards-based technologies are vital to help unleash the full potential of 5G and edge computing, according to Marisa Viveros, VP of strategy and offerings at IBM. “We hope to harness Open RAN and bring new value to telecom clients.”