The Japanese operator has officially launched its Open RAN customer centre in Weybridge, Surrey

The site, first announced in November last year, and developed with $2.3 million in funding from the Japanese government is designed to “serve as a European hub for interoperability testing around the viability of Open RAN in new and existing networks.” The centre which will test technology from multiple Open RAN vendors for interoperability and conformance to O-RAN Alliance specifications, is currently running Rakuten Symphony software, there is openness having any company’s technology deployed and tested.

However, it was noted by Rabih Dabboussi, Rakuten Symphony’s Chief Business Officer, that while the Symphony team could deploy Open RAN software from alternative suppliers of open distributed unit and centralised software if customers requested it, “at this point we will not be integrating Open RAN software from other vendors” – so while the capability is there, it would presumably take a very specific operator request.

The development and launch of the centre, marks further deepening ties between the UK and Japan on Open RAN development and promotion, and is overall a positive step for Open RAN development which has progressed at a slower pace than perhaps expected. The increasing role of governments within Open RAN points to the geopolitical issues driving its development, and it will certainly be interesting to see how Open RAN continues to develop.