The three-year partnership will see Nokia provide the operator with its latest RAN solutions, as well as the potential for Open RAN and Cloud RAN pilots

This week, Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) have announced that they will expand their partnership with Finnish vendor Nokia in a new three-year deal.

The agreement covers various parts of Nokia’s Airspan portfolio, which allows a single base station to deliver 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G services simultaneously.

More specifically, Nokia will supply VMO2 with its latest Habrok Massive MIMO radios and AirScale Baseband and Interleaved Passive Active Antennas (IPAA). This will deliver improved 5G performance to customers, as well as a 30% reduction in power consumption and 40% weight and volume reduction compared to existing solutions, thanks to its energy efficient ReefShark System-on-Chip (SoC) technology.

Naturally, Nokia will also provide various optimisation and technical support alongside the solutions themselves.

The deal itself is regional, spanning southern parts of the UK, including London.

“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,” said VMO2’s Chief Technology Officer, Jeanie York.

In addition to Nokia’s Single RAN and massive MIMO solutions, the deal will also allow VMO2 to launch pilots with Nokia’s 5G Cloud RAN and commercial RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) technology.

VMO2 first launched an Open RAN pilot in August last year in partnership with Rakuten Symphony and has since announced a significant Open RAN partnership with Mavenir earlier this year. The scope of this partnership has yet to be revealed, but Neil Geary, the VMO2’s director of technical strategy and architecture, says the move encompasses the company’s “biggest Open RAN deployment to date”.

But while commercial Open RAN deployments across the UK remain few and far between, conventional 5G deployments are continuing to accelerate rapidly. Earlier this year, VMO2 said that they had achieved 50% outdoor population coverage in 2,100 towns and cities and were now aiming for 50% of the whole of the UK by the end of 2023.

Is the UK’s 5G rollout progressing fast enough? Will Open RAN live up to the hype? Answer these questions and more at this year’s Connected Britain conference

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