University of Warwick: Virgin Media O2-led consortium involving WMG, University of Warwick wins DCMS “Diversifying the 5G Supply Chain” competition

A consortium led by a team from Virgin Media O2 has won a DCMS grant to explore possible Open RAN solutions and encourage 5G vendor diversity. The winning project team also featured technology giant CISCO; global edge platform Ori Industries; WMG at the University of Warwick who will ensure the security of the platform; and rural network provider, operator and hardware vendor, wavemobile Ltd.

The “5G DRIVE” programme created by the consortium aims to enable a wider ecosystem of vendors to connect their 5G Private Networks to major networks securely. By providing a low cost, secure integration solution powered by a multi-access edge computing capability, which includes vendor evaluation services, the 5G DRIVE programme will pave the way for future deployment at scale.

The research will take place at the Harwell Science and Innovation Park, where Virgin Media O2 has a 5G Private Network and lab facilities. This will avoid compromising the main operational mobile network. The team will use the N32 Interface and an IPX to manage the security rule set before the traffic enters the Virgin Media O2 network.

Ultimately, the 5G DRIVE programme will support the development of an Open RAN ecosystem by encouraging more third party vendors to produce RAN solutions. This will also be done by enabling enterprises to leverage global cloud cores with a diverse set of O-RAN based radio vendors pre-integrated both at a 3GPP protocol level, and at a management level.

Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2 said: “The development of high performance 5G Open & Diversified RAN solutions is crucial to the continued rollout and densification of 5G networks across the UK. I’m very proud of the project team who worked tirelessly to deliver the winning submission, and we look forward to working with our partners to bring this to life alongside the DCMS.”

Shaun McCarthy, VP World Wide Sales, Mass-Scale Infrastructure Group at Cisco said: “There will be many cases where 5G should not be a stand-alone solution. Our partners in 5G DRIVE understand to ensure optimal performance, we need to be able to build 5G solutions to scale – securely and efficiently. Cisco is looking forward to working with our partners in 5G DRIVE to expand the potential and utility of private 5G networks.”

Mahdi Yahya, Chief Executive Officer at Ori Industries said: “The status quo in how we build and operate networks is rapidly changing. The continued deployment of 5G in the enterprise space at reduced costs and faster speeds enables modern organisations to become end-to-end service providers. We are pleased to be playing a part in this transformation alongside our partners in the 5G DRIVE programme empowering telecom operators and enterprises to roll out a set of a new generation of services for their users.”

Carsten Maple, Professor of Cyber Systems Engineering at WMG, University of Warwick said: “The Secure Cyber Systems Research Group at WMG are delighted to be part of a world-leading consortium that have been selected to deliver methods for diversity in the 5G supply chain. Developing vendor diversity will support innovation and enhance long-term resilience but requires methods to assess and ensure security. This programme of work builds upon our previous experience and is strongly aligned to the WMG mission of research excellence with industry relevance.”

Anthony Timson, Technical Director of wavemobile Ltd said: “The 5G ecosystem opens up many possibilities for private and pseudo-publicly connected networks. Until now, the biggest challenge has been a way to commercially connect incumbent and small operators in a secure, flexible manner. This project provides for a technically acceptable industry standard that will bring real value to businesses and rural communities alike.”

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