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Philipp Kornstädt

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Consortium of industry leaders creates new open lab "i14y" to accelerate network disaggregation and Open RAN

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  • 17 million Euro funding from the German Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), to be matched by approx. 17 million Euro in investments from a consortium under the leadership of Deutsche Telekom (DT)
  • Testing and integrating components of disaggregated networks in the lab to accelerate time to market of open network technology for the multi-vendor network of the future.
  • The lab has already started operations at DT Innovation Campus Winterfeldtstraße
  • Important foundation for building a European and German ecosystem of vendors and system integrators
Consortium establishes new Open Lab "i14y".

Consortium establishes new Open Lab "i14y".


The German Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) supports the i14y Lab with 17 million Euro funding. The lab will accelerate time to market for disaggregated network solutions and be of great importance to building an ecosystem of such vendors in Germany and Europe. Digitalization requires more flexible and powerful networks, and network disaggregation promises to deliver more flexibility, innovation, and choice for all market players. The testing and integration work done at the i14y Lab will be crucial to developing the collaboration and the standards required for this open, disaggregated approach. 

Federal Minister of Transport Scheuer: "We are launching an innovation incubator 'Made in Germany’! The Open RAN Lab, which we are promoting, is an open platform that enables the networking of market players and accelerates technical development. All interested market players have access and can collaborate and learn from each other there across the board - whether network operators, network suppliers, or new players such as startups or SMEs. In the Open Lab environment, they can research, try out, validate and develop new, innovative products and business models. In this way, we are strengthening Germany as an industrial and technology location and make our communications technology fit for the future."

i14y Lab is an open lab led by DT and operated by a consortium of partners that will match the funding provided by the BMVI with their own investments, which will put the funding for the i14y Lab at 34 million Euro over the next 3 years. The consortium is made up of BISDN, Capgemini Engineering, Deutsche Telekom, EANTC, Fraunhofer HHI, highstreet technologies, Nokia, Rohde & Schwarz, Telefónica Deutschland, TU Berlin, Vodafone Deutschland. 

The lab will furthermore be supported by and working closely with OCP (Open Compute Project), ONF (Open Networking Foundation), ONAP (Open Network Automation Platform), the O-RAN Alliance and the TIP (Telecom Infra Project). Partners and supporters together form the user forum, which is open for participation by other interested companies, especially SMEs, working on applications as well as equipment and development. As an open lab it is built for collaboration within the wider telecommunications community. The i14y Lab Berlin will be the central location and core node of satellite locations such as Düsseldorf and Munich. 

The initial focus will be on the development of Open RAN, a new approach to building radio access networks by disaggregating hardware and software, using open interfaces. An open, flexible, and programmable Radio Access Network (RAN) as part of network disaggregation enables many new capabilities to be introduced for 5G networks. It fosters innovation by supporting the introduction of advanced capabilities, provided by different vendors and new entrants, for example Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms that can automatically optimize the network. Open and standardized APIs will enable a robust and active telecom ecosystem, allowing new applications to be developed, with strong network performance and security. A recent Research Nester report predicts a market size of 21 billion US-Dollar for O-RAN in 2028 [Source: https://www.researchnester.com/reports/open-radio-access-network-market/2781].

Interoperability and integration testing will be a core task for the lab. For network disaggregation to work, open standards must be developed that enable multivendor interoperability of the components. The lab provides the infrastructure necessary for conducting integration tests, giving insight into the efforts required to integrate disaggregated components towards a deployable state. The goal is to provide an environment for end-to-end integration and performance testing and ultimately a market-ready certification.

At the DT Innovation Campus Winterfeldtstraße in the heart of Berlin, the i14y Lab will provide infrastructure and support for testing and integrating the components of the open, disaggregated networks of the future to the wider community working on this topic. With interoperability at its heart, the labs name uses a commonly used abbreviation, where the 14 stands for the number of characters left out between the “i” and “y” of the word interoperability. 

The interoperability and integration tests to be carried out may take the form of multi-vendor events such as the plugfest organized by the O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project. Such events, in the early stages of technology development, are the best method to bring vendors together for the first time and allow them to interact with the greatest possible freedom. 

To accommodate the changing requirements from initial integration to E2E testing while adding other components into the mix, i14y Lab will also be given a future-proof, modular and expandable structure. This service-oriented architecture based on the idea of a Lab as a Service (LaaS) will make the resources of the Open Lab available as an API. In this way, the satellites of the lab, operated by the consortium partners Telefónica and Nokia, will also be connected. This will also enable an open end-to-end test environment necessary for the goal of realizing as many functions as possible in the network of the future with the help of components from open eco-systems.

Beyond testing, there are research needs expected regarding the increased complexity of multi-vendor systems. The i14y Lab will lay the engineering foundations for the development of market-ready end-to-end solutions. The consortium partners TU Berlin and the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute will contribute greatly to this area of work done at the lab. 

Therefore, the i14y Lab is of outstanding importance for the rapid development of a German and European ecosystem of system component providers, software suppliers and system integrators as outlined in the Open RAN MOU signed by major European operators in January 2021. It is intended to expand a synergetic interaction between industry and research, and in Germany help develop a well-founded, holistic expertise for this new systematic approach. It will foster better collaboration, co-creation and co-innovation between academia and industry for the advancement of Open RAN and disaggregated network technology in general. As such it is an open lab, with openness and collaboration at its core, and open for cooperation with other companies - crucial qualities for creating a new ecosystem of disaggregated network solutions. 

For further information please visit www.i14y-lab.com 

Consortium

The consortium is composed of 

BISDN

BISDN specializes in the development of disaggregated, highly scalable network functions for carrier deployment. COTS (components-off-the-shelf) hardware is used in so-called POD-like architectures. In the Open Lab, BISDN wants to expand the existing competences with regard to real-time supported cloud environments.  

Capgemini Engineering

Capgemini Engineering is part of the Capgemini Group, a global leader in partnering with companies to transform and manage their business by harnessing the power of technology. It will provide essential parts of the open testing infrastructure (O-RAN SW Stack) as well as research & development activities. The know-how generated within this undertaking will be incorporated in Capgemini’s portfolio of technology consulting and product development for next generation communication networks. 

Deutsche Telekom 

Deutsche Telekom AG is taking the lead in the consortium in order to enable rapid implementation, particularly in the German market, and to allow the results of the project to flow directly into the further development of the Group's networks, platforms and service offerings.

EANTC

EANTC, as independent testing consultancy and lab-as-a-service provider, will create and implement test methods in the Open Lab. In particular, EANTC will enable the automated test framework, and plans to use the project results to expand its own 5G test service portfolio for manufacturers, network operators and enterprises.

Fraunhofer HHI

Fraunhofer HHI will use the knowledge gained from the project to maintain its pioneering role in concepts, procedures and algorithms in the areas of network optimization, artificial intelligence in communication networks and open wireless networks, and use these for technology transfer to industry.

highstreet technologies 

highstreet technologies will use the standards and software created in the Open Lab project to expand its integration business regarding xHaul systems and at the same time lay a foundation for the development of applications (rApps).

Nokia

At the new Open Lab, Nokia will pursue the development and integration of third-party Partner xApps in addition to user-plane applications. In an ever-changing mobile operator business environment, the Lab provides an opportunity to address the challenges of new services and more complex network implementations as well as testing new approaches to solutions. 

Rohde & Schwarz 

Rohde & Schwarz is a leader in test and measurement for mobile communications. The company supports the technical evolution with expertise and active participation in the O-RAN Alliance to enable a globally harmonized market. With a wide portfolio ranging from component verification through fronthaul conformance to mobile network testing and benchmarking, Rohde & Schwarz helps to drive development, certification, deployment and operation of Open RAN networks. Through early stage collaboration with Open Lab partners and customers, Rohde & Schwarz aims at adopting its portfolio in accordance with new test requirements.

Telefónica Deutschland

Telefónica Deutschland is already successfully operating several Open RAN sites in its mobile network since the end of 2020. For the company, the future findings from the Open Lab in Berlin are therefore an important step for the further development of Telefónica Deutschland's network. Telefónica Deutschland sees the testing of Open RAN security architectures in an independent lab in particular as a great opportunity to strengthen confidence in the technology among users and decision-makers in politics and business.

TU Berlin

The focus of the scientific work for TU Berlin lies in the areas of cloud/edge computing, distributed sensor data processing, artificial intelligence, security analyses and new security concepts. 

Vodafone

Global supply chains are being stretched and tested worldwide. Open RAN is the key to resilience, innovation, and diversification in the telecoms’ vendor supply chain. With Germany and other major European markets putting their weight behind Open RAN through the establishment of open labs, the technology has reached an inflection point. Through continued industry and political collaboration, Vodafone remains committed to building and supporting the extension of Open RAN labs to other European countries. 

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