French technology consulting company Capgemini is joining Sonic Labs, an Open RAN initiative funded by the UK government.

Sonic was first announced almost two years ago and formally launched in the summer of 2021. It’s part of the UK state sponsored Digital Catapult technology incubation initiative and is focused on Open RAN. As you would expect from something like this, it’s all about getting techies together to find common ground and make sure the stuff they’re working on is interoperable and generally functional.

We haven’t heard much about Sonic since the big unveil and it’s supposed to be a two year initiative so the arrival of a heavy-hitter like Capgemini is timely. It will work with the five companies that are already involved – Benetel, Cable Free, Effnet, IS-Wireless and Phluido – to develop new Open RAN gear and make sure it all plays nice with the broader ecosystem.

While it has presumably been involved in the telecoms industry for some time, Capgemini seems to have ramped up its activities in this sector recently. Last year it poached one of BT/EE’s senior techies – Fotis Karonis – to head up its 5G and mobile edge interests and Open RAN seems like a natural fit for a company that counts technology services and systems integration among its core competences.

“Achieving a high performance 5G Open RAN eco-system with a diversified telecom supply chain and flexible footprint will be an important characteristic of Sonic Labs.” said Karonis. “It will be a key enabler in the UK’s move towards Intelligent Industry by increasing the accessibility and security of public and private 5G. With our Open RAN software components, we are very excited to embark on this advanced open and interoperable technology journey with Digital Catapult and help shape the future of the UK’s telecoms supply chain.”

“We’re funding Sonic Labs to lead the development of a new breed of telecoms technology which will strengthen our 5G networks and supply chains so they’re fit for the future,” said DCMS Minister for State, Julia Lopez, who has miraculously retained her role amid the UK political chaos. “It is just one of the ways our £250 million strategy is opening up the UK market to a diverse and innovative variety of suppliers to build and maintain our telecoms networks.”

What, if anything, Sonic Labs will need to demonstrate at the end of its two-year endeavour to justify its public funding is anyone’s guess. The US-imported rhetoric around vendor diversity has been toned down since the launch, which is probably for the best, but the UK government would presumably like to see signs of domestic progress in OpenRAN. You can’t help feeling Capgemini has been brought in, at least in part, to add some urgency and focus to that aim.

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