INTERVIEW: BT Group’s network and security chief Howard Watson predicted deployment of open RAN in urban environments is still at least four years away from becoming a reality, as he highlighted broader moves by operators to evolve their infrastructure.

During an interview at MWC23 last week, Watson told Mobile World LiveBT’s focus is currently on the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), one of several elements forming part of the broader open movement.

But he predicted the pay-off from internal and collaborative open RAN development in urban environments would only begin to take off in 2027 or 2028 “rather than 2025, 2026”.

BT was not part of a major European operator initiative launched in 2021 to advance open RAN, but Watson noted it works with industry groups including the Telecom Infra Project on what he believes are the three key opportunities presented by the approach.

“There’s disaggregation, how do you layer your network, build APIs between them”.

“There’s virtualisation or cloudification” and “then there’s diversification, how do we get more vendors into the mix”.

Watson explained BT’s current open RAN focus is on how to employ the RIC to “get real smart networking capability”.

The executive also discussed BT’s work to embed security into its 5G and fibre networks, which he noted are “increasingly more and more critical” to its customers lives.

Click here to view the full interview, which includes updates on BT’s 5G deployment, potential uses of satellite connectivity and its ongoing efforts to reduce power consumption.

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