Home5G & BeyondVirgin Media O2 and Nokia extend 5G RAN deal

    Virgin Media O2 and Nokia extend 5G RAN deal


    The operator also has contracts with Mavenir for open RAN and Ericsson for 5G

    Nokia has won a new three-year deal with Virgin Media O2 to supply RAN equipment from its AirScale portfolio for 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G networks. The agreement covers the Southern parts of the United Kingdom including London.

    Nokia will supply Habrok massive MIMO radios and AirScale Baseband and Interleaved Passive Active Antennas (IPAA), powered by its new generation of ReefShark System-on-Chip (SoC) technology.

    The vendor claims this improve 5G’s performance for O2 customers while using 30% less energy. It is also 40% lighter and less in volume, reducing the impact on site infrastructure and so accelerating network deployment.

    Nokia will also supply its Single RAN solution that enables one base station to run 5G, 4G, 3G, and 2G technologies simultaneously. This will also help enable Virgin Media O2 speed up its 5G roll-out.

    Nokia’s NetAct network management system will provide a consolidated view of the network for better network monitoring and management. The Finnish vendor is to provide design, deployment, optimisation and technical support services.

    Cloud and RIC options

    As part of the deal announced today with Nokia, Virgin Media O2 has the option of launching a pilot for Open RAN using Nokia’s commercial RAN intelligent controller (RIC) to experiment with 5G use cases beyond faster connectivity.

    The operator could also pilot 5G Cloud RAN to explore integrating cloud infrastructure with 5G mobile connectivity.

    Jeanie York, CTO at Virgin Media O2 [read our exclusive interview with her here], commented:“We continue to invest in our network upgrading and expanding our 4G and 5G networks to customers across the country. This is delivering superior connected experiences and supporting the UK’s digital transformation that will drive long-term growth. Continuing our partnership with Nokia will help us to deliver even better 5G with higher speeds and lower latency, as well as ensuring we are set up for future growth in line with our customers’ ever-evolving demands and needs.” 

    Also RANs

    In April Virgin Media O2 chose Mavenir as its Open RAN partner, for deployments at an unspecified number of sites. Mavenir is tiny compared to Ericsson and Nokia but has shifted from being a RAN software specialist to offering hardware and systems integration too.

    The latter is a key ingredient of ensuring the interoperability of elements from different providers, which is the point of open RAN. Its revised, end-to-end approach gives Virgin Media O2 a third string to its RAN bow.

    The operator’s 5G contracts with Ericsson and Nokia have seen their equipment installed in 1,600 UK towns and cities, according to its earnings update for Q1 2023.

    Mavenir was also chosen in preference to Rakuten Symphony and NEC which participated in trials Virgin Media O2 trials in the UK last year.