New SFI Open RAN projects aim to shake up Ireland’s telecoms sector

28 Feb 2023

Image: © Peter Heckmeier/

It is hoped that developing Open RAN networks will break down barriers to entry for smaller companies.

Connect, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre, is working with industry leaders to develop open radio access networks (Open RAN).

Open RAN differs from traditional radio access networks by allowing different parts of the network’s infrastructure to be built by different vendors.

The SFI research centre for future networks will lead €600,000 worth of projects, which aim to make the necessary hardware and software to allow multiple companies to share infrastructure.

It is hoped that the development of Open RAN networks will break down barriers to entry in the telecoms sector, increasing the amount of competition and lowering costs as a result.

It could also help start-ups enter the market by letting smaller companies fix specific network problems using their expertise.

The initiative will be led by Prof Marco Ruffini, the Connect principal investigator at Trinity College Dublin. Ruffini will work with various industry partners on these projects, including Benetel, HEAnet, Intel, Software Radio Systems and VMware.

“The future of networks is open, and I am excited to see partners come together to research and work on this important topic,” Ruffini said. “The market impact of this has the potential to be significant and it will need industry and academia to come together to develop the full stack of innovations needed to bring it to life.”

Those involved in the projects will utilise the SFI OpenIreland testbed infrastructure at the Connect centre and the Dublin Azure data centre.

These projects will also benefit from a 5G test licence, which was awarded to Trinity and Connect last March by ComReg, the general communications regulator for Ireland.

Connect director Prof Dan Kilper said the fundamentals of mobile infrastructure are changing and “Open RAN is an important part of that change”.

“By bringing in multiple industry partners, Connect is looking to reshape networks, from the core to the edge, to focus on the needs of people and the planet using Open RAN technology,” Kilper said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic