SONIC Labs first outdoor Open RAN testing site launches with Ofcom, Cellnex UK and Capgemini

SONIC Labs first outdoor Open RAN testing site
  • Leading global telecoms organisations expand SONIC Labs facilities to include an outdoor field testing environment for Open RAN technology.
  • Replicates real-world complexities to allow vendors to test and accelerate development of Open RAN product capabilities.
  • Specialist R&D licence from Ofcom for an outdoor testing site in the UK.                                             

(31st October 2023, London, UK) Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technologies, in partnership with Ofcom and global collaborators Cellnex UK and Capgemini, has launched its first independent 5G SA (Standalone) outdoor field testing site for Open RAN technology. The outdoor testbed has been established after Ofcom granted Digital Catapult a special research and development licence, to encourage further Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) experimentation. 

Located in Hammersmith and Fulham, the outdoor facility will serve as a critical hub for the advancement and validation of Open RAN solutions in the capital, allowing vendors to rigorously test their products in a representative network deployment scenario. The new outdoor test site will be fully integrated with existing state-of-the-art indoor facilities and will provide a unique location to take product testing to the next level by simulating the typical challenges encountered in a real-world network. 

The outdoor test environment will closely mirror 5G outdoor commercial deployments, and replicate the complexities of both public and private 5G networks. It will include outdoor macro coverage and small cell deployment to create a test network with overlapping coverage, enabling radio equipment of different sizes, power and capabilities and different network architectures to be deployed. This will allow businesses to test network capabilities such as handover, mobility, interference management and overall performance.

This exciting development is the culmination of successful collaboration between Digital Catapult and renowned global telecoms organisations, including Cellnex UK and Capgemini. Cellnex UK will be leading the provision of site infrastructure, edge hosting and transmission services, Capgemini will concentrate primarily on supplying the Open RAN solution and System Integration capabilities. It has been made possible thanks to the specialist R&D licence granted by Ofcom in a high density location with a sufficient frequency radio channel size to test the higher 5G throughputs on the outdoor field test site. 

Open RAN technology is at the forefront of innovation in the telecommunications industry, offering a more open and interoperable approach to wireless network infrastructure. SONIC Labs gives vendors in this space, the opportunity to trial, test and accelerate the development of their products in a commercially neutral environment. 

Joe Butler, Chief Technology Officer at Digital Catapult, said: 

“Real world testing is an essential part of enabling early stage telecoms products to make the journey to robust and performant propositions. This is particularly important in the case of Open RAN and supports a diverse supply chain of innovative, market ready products. This groundbreaking outdoor field site is a fantastic addition to SONIC Labs’ existing state-of-the-art facilities, enabling real-world testing alongside our lab testing capabilities. Digital Catapult is thrilled to be working with our innovative global partners, Ofcom, Cellnex UK and Capgemini to accelerate the evolution of Open RAN technology.”

Lindsey Fussell, Group Director Networks and Communications at Ofcom, said: 

“This is an exciting moment for the SONIC Labs project - providing an opportunity to really put Open RAN technology through its paces and test how it operates in a dense urban environment. It will be an important step forward for the companies involved on their journey to prepare their services and technology for the commercial rollout.”

Jonathan Freeman, Strategic Growth and Regulatory Director at Cellnex UK, said: 

"As the UK’s leading wireless neutral host player Cellnex UK is delighted to be delivering the infrastructure which will support the next stage of the SONIC Labs programme. This project will leverage the significant Open RAN activity that Cellnex UK and the wider Cellnex Group has undertaken to date to support the development and adoption of this exciting technology.”

Jason Glew, Managing Director, Capgemini Engineering, UK, said: 

“We’re proud to be part of the first 5G outdoor trial network from Digital Catapult. Capgemini’s 5G ORAN solution alongside its engineering capabilities have been a vital part of this chapter, the final phase of establishing the world class SONIC Labs. This is an important moment for this technology and the wealth of opportunities it will bring to businesses in the UK.”

To find out more about how your company can join the SONIC Labs programme, visit 

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