Home5G & BeyondQuickline and Mavenir create UK's first 5G SA Open RAN

    Quickline and Mavenir create UK’s first 5G SA Open RAN


    Rare green shoot from UK Testbed, nurtured by SDN

    The UK has its first ever commercial 5G Standalone Open radio access network (RAN) created from a testbed, venture capital, a network builder and a network software definer. The ‘SA O-RAN’ was unveiled this week by regional broadband provider Quickline and offers the best elements of private networking and open standards.

    With £500 million venture funding Internet service provider Quickline is building a physical infrastructure of full fibre and wireless broadband. It commissioned network software specialist Mavenir to create the next level up in the comms stack, a cloud-based standalone 5G RAN built without proprietorial barriers in a Shared Access Spectrum licence. The appearance of the Open Ran is an encouraging green shoot in a British ecosystem that has been criticised for a lacked of diversity. 

    Most existing 5G mobile networks in the UK use Non-Standalone (NSA) hardware and systems, reports ISP Review. They deliver impressive mobile broadband speeds but they are not the ‘full fat 5G’ because they are handicapped by their 4G roots. A pure end-to-end 5G network, would bring the sub-millisecond response times that the public think they need. More importantly, it creates a virtual multi-lane motorway that can be privately apportioned into slices dedicated to those needing guaranteed bandwidth. 

    “This is a UK first,” said Ian Smith, Quickline’s Chief Technology Officer. Quickline’s pioneering efforts bolster the UK Government’s ambitions to provide gigabit-scale capacity, said Smith. It is one of the few tangible examples of successful telecoms supply chain diversification. Mavenir’s software defined networking skills helped it stay vendor-neutral on its hardware.

    “Quickline’s new product essentially combines both of the above into a commercial product, which they’ve been testing alongside a number of suppliers, for the past two years. The company has now switched on its first mast using the same kit, which helps to demonstrate its ambitions in the new sector,” said ISP Review.

    “As a result of being involved in the UK 5G testbed programme Quickline was able to develop and commercialise a 5G standalone, cloud-native OpenRAN network,” said CTO Smith. The network uses the N77 [3.7GHz] spectrum band as part of Ofcom’s Shared Access Spectrum licence.

    Quickline took part in the UK Government’s £6m Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) consortium. Its focus on FWA connectivity exemplifies how private 5G networks can take broadband to specific areas, sites or rural communities. The UK government’s hope – and that of businesses and consumers, is that these new products will help to spread ultrafast mobile broadband to rural parts across the North of England.

    Northleaf Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Quickline in 2021 and supported a plan to invest £500m on building “ultrafast and gigabit-capable broadband” connections across rural North England. It aims to cover over 500,000 premises in UK rural areas via a mix of FTTP and FWA.