BAI recruits Mavenir for UK private open-RAN 5G smart-city install in Sunderland
Telecom infrastructure provider BAI Communications has recruited Mavenir to supply 5G radio and core network software to the City of Sunderland in the UK as part of its 20-year contract with the city council to design, build, and operate a new 5G smart-city network. Sunderland, in the northeast of the country, has a stated ambition to be a “global smart city”.
It announced a tender, organised by law firm Bevan Brittan, in mid-2020 to establish a ‘strategic consortium’ and procure a “strategic delivery partner” for the project, to establish the country’s first city-owned ‘neutral host’ network for 5G and fibre. The initial timeline, somewhat delayed, was to recruit all partners to start deployment by early 2021. BAI Communications was appointed as the project lead in October.
Its scope is to build a new “5G centric network” to “accelerate adoption” of digital services among the local manufacturing, logistics, education, and social care sectors. The initial phase, with US network vendor Mavenir now on board, is for a private 5G network in the city centre. Mavenir will supply its private LTE/5G MAVedge product, comprising open RAN and packet core solutions.
Its open RAN platform allows BAI Communications to deploy radio hardware units on commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware from different open RAN vendors. Eventually, the council wants to run the infrastructure as a neutral host network, and lease space to mobile operators. It will also develop its own smart city services, it said.
The initial rollout in the city centre is geared towards the same sectors, grouped in three use-case buckets – providing residential IoT monitoring for local healthcare services (“smart home”); connectivity and distance learning for local schools (“digital skills and education”); and IoT connectivity and, potentially, autonomous vehicle support for the local automotive industry (“manufacturing and Industry 4.0”).
In particular, the Industry 4.0 work will support the efforts of car maker Nissan, which has a manufacturing base in Sunderland, strategically important for both the local and national economy. A statement said the Industry 4.0 focus will improve “supply chain agility for the automotive industry, including applications such as self-driving vehicles and autonomous heavy goods vehicles”.
Stefano Cantarelli, chief marketing officer at Mavenir, said: “Wwe will be able to build new RAN and packet core domains that will deliver the flexibility needed for a diverse set of cross-sector use cases. Virtualised solutions… are the perfect choice… The objective is to automate operations and flex the scalability in neutral hosting architecture whilst delivering benefits not only to enterprises and business users, but also for the wider community.”
Brendan O’Reilly, group chief technology officer at BAI Communications, said: “Open RAN is a cost-effective solution which is based on open interfaces and will give us the ability to deploy in a very agile and flexible way. [It is] technology we believe will help accelerate Sunderland’s ambitions to become one of the UK’s most advanced smart cities, connecting people, communities and businesses.”
Andrew Conway, director of solutions and innovation at BAI Communications UK, said: “We are creating a new digital fabric for Sunderland, upon which the city’s digital and business entrepreneurs can build – a portfolio of new digital services for the benefits of residents, businesses and visitors.”
Liz St Louis, assistant director of smart cities at Sunderland City Council, said: “We are harnessing the power of technology and digital transformation for the benefit of residents, businesses and visitors. The new network will accelerate the emergence of more smart services including community applications, digital upskilling opportunities and efficiency drives for our advanced manufacturing clusters across the city.”
In December, BAI Communications, headquartered in Toronto and majority owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, announced the acquisition of UK-based system integrator Vilicom. Financial terms were not disclosed. Vilicom specializes in various aspects of designing, integrating and installing 4G and 5G cellular networks and has more than 1,500 deployments to date, it claims.
Those include mobile network operators as well as Vilicom customers in healthcare, energy, real estate, and hospitality, with major projects at Dublin Airport, Croke Park stadium, and offshore windfarm in Moray East. Vilicom is working with Mavenir at Moray East, alongside Italy-based private network specialist Athonet.