SONIC Labs Open RAN Energy Efficiency Challenge

Participating companies in this programme will build solutions to accelerate the diversification and adoption of Open RAN (Radio Access Network) products in the UK market.

Opportunity Details


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Theme 1: £30,000 per startup/SME. Theme 2: £20,000 per participating company. Both themes will include access to education, training, development, networks, and testbed facilities.

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SONIC Labs Technology Access Programme (TAP) is an 8-month structured programme developed by Digital Catapult in collaboration with Ofcom, running from June 2024 to January 2025. This programme is funded by the UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), and aims to facilitate experimentation, unlock innovation and help accelerate the adoption of Open RAN technology in the UK industry.

Participating companies in this programme will build solutions to accelerate the diversification and adoption of Open RAN products in the UK market and carry out their own research to develop and implement solutions and algorithms relevant to address the two Open RAN energy efficiencies challenges presented under the following two Themes:

Theme 1: RIC enabled Advanced Sleep Modes

UK operating startups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Academia and software developers participating under Theme 1 will develop solutions for rApps and xApps to run on Non-Real Time and Near-Real Time RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) platforms to improve energy savings in the Radio Access Network (RAN). The challenge focuses on leveraging Advanced Sleep Mode, a new feature identified by the Mobile Network Operators (MNO) community.

The goal of this theme is to optimise the sleep mode patterns of the RAN through the utilisation of xApps and rApps. These applications receive real-time usage and load patterns from O-RAN network nodes through RIC, a platform that allows different software applications to work together with the radio network. xApps and rApps can use AI and ML techniques to evaluate, diagnose, and learn to improve the performance and resource utilisation of the radio network.

Digital Catapult will provide access to testing capabilities and a network setup for development and trials. The applications will be tested using a RIC tester which will simulate a real-world scenario of an Open RAN deployment, and the results will demonstrate how effectively they achieve energy efficiency gains.

In Theme 1, the testing will involve three sleep modes with different transition times:

  • Micro sleep power state with instantaneous (i.e. per symbol basis) transition time
  • Light sleep power state with transition times between 6 ms and 640 ms
  • Deep sleep power state with transition times between 50 ms to 10 sec

Participants will be provided with the opportunity to upskill application developers with highly transferable expertise to start or expand new value propositions in telecom and provide UK MNOs and private network providers with a pipeline of innovative and competitive suppliers and products to choose from.

Participating companies will receive a contribution of £30,000 per startup/SME developing xApp/rApp solutions on the programme.

Theme 2: Optimising CU/DU Power utilisation of server CPU cores

UK operating companies participating under Theme 2 will be expected to provide, deploy and integrate O-CU/O-DU software solutions within an energy monitoring and optimisation test platform. The goal of this theme is to optimise O-DU and O-CU solutions for providing energy-efficient solutions to the MNOs and private network provider community.

Participating companies will explore innovative solutions and optimise their products’ energy consumption using standardised testing methodologies. During this programme, Digital Catapult will provide access to an energy consumption monitoring test platform. Companies will be expected to deploy O-DU and O-CU software on a Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) server and integrated with an O-RU and Core network simulator and a Power Analyser.

Participating companies offering either an O-DU and/or O-CU with a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7-9 will receive a contribution of £20,000 on the programme.

Who should apply

This programme is designed for UK operating startups, SMEs, and companies who want to demonstrate that they have developed a viable energy efficiency product for their business and the industry.

All applicants must have adequate technical resources to engage in development, integration, testing, and porting processes, as well as other resources for participation in knowledge-sharing and dissemination activities. Additionally, applicants must have a UK business bank account for payments, be a UK operating company, or prove they are a company that has an establishment in the UK and conducts all activities within the UK. Applicants must not be considered high-risk vendors (as defined by the National Cyber Security Centre, or otherwise under applicable law).


Successful applicants will (in addition to the £20k or £30k support above):

  • Receive development support through education, training and workshops
  • Have access to Digital Catapult’s commercially-neutral, multi-tenancy open network testbed
  • Be exposed to potential clients and key players of the Open RAN ecosystem
  • Have the opportunity to share learnings and collaborate with other innovators on key Open RAN challenges
  • Have the opportunity to continuously engage with the programme
  • Have regular sessions with your leadership team

For full details and to start an application, visit the Digital Catapult funding page at the link below.


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