BAI Communications Australia (BAI) has been selected to lead one of four working groups scoping active sharing partnership models in phase one of the Stage 1 Mobile Coverage Program’s (MCP) Active Sharing Partnership (the Partnership) led by the Department of Regional NSW (DRNSW).

Phase one of the Partnership brings together infrastructure providers and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to collaboratively develop commercial and delivery models for four active sharing options: Open Radio Access Network (ORAN), roaming, Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN) and Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN). Results from phase one of the Partnership will inform the design and delivery of the MCP’s $300 million investment that is focused on improving mobile coverage in Regional NSW.

BAI, the Australian company responsible for designing, building, and operating shared infrastructure and wireless solutions around the world is leading the program’s ORAN stream, working closely with representatives from Optus and NEC.

ORAN is the latest innovation in 4G and 5G base station technology, it uses open standards and clearly defines interoperability requirements for various components of the Radio Access Network to support sharing (for both MORAN and MOCN) and integrating infrastructure and equipment. The use of ORAN delivers a flexible software-based solution, avoids vendor lock-in and leverages the ongoing improvements in server hardware performance. These factors are expected to provide implementation and operational cost benefits in the delivery of mobile networks over the next decade.

Peter Lambourne, Chief Executive Officer, BAI Communications Australia, said, “BAI is well-positioned to add meaningful value in the ORAN stream. We have a demonstrable track record of successfully partnering with government and multiple stakeholders to deliver neutral host solutions using infrastructure and emerging technologies. BAI also understands the complexities of hard-to-service areas – we are already relied on to keep broadcast services on-air across rural, regional and remote communities and during emergencies as the operator of the NSW Government’s Public Safety Network.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said regional communities deserve reliable and affordable mobile services, “The NSW Government is committed to trialling innovative approaches to ensure our regional communities have access to high standard mobile coverage, no matter where they live.

“Network sharing reduces the need to build additional mobile towers across the landscape, reduces costs for telecommunications providers and ensures everyone can access their mobile phone no matter their provider,” Mr Toole said.

Nick Gurney, BAI Communications Australia’s Director of Telecommunications, believes ORAN provides a flexible, low-cost solution for active sharing that is ideally suited to meet DRNSW’s rural and regional connectivity objectives.

Mr Gurney said, “Like the program itself, ORAN relies on infrastructure providers and MNOs working together in an innovative way. The ORAN technical solution maximises sharing as it has the flexibility to be deployed as MOCN, MORAN or a combination of the two and allows equipment from different vendors to be integrated and work together seamlessly to fully meet the needs of MNOs and their customers. ORAN, therefore, has the potential to lower costs, promote vendor diversity, solution flexibility and new capabilities leading to increased competition and further innovation. “

“Internationally, we are seeing a significant proportion of private 5G networks trialling ORAN based solutions. In BAI’s work with Sunderland City Council in the North of England, we are currently implementing a 5G network based on ORAN technology that will enable us to operate the network in a more agile and flexible way.”

The ORAN working group is currently designing a pilot program that can be deployed to several blackspot sites across Regional NSW. Preliminary commercial and delivery models were presented to DRNSW in June, with technical solutions and refined commercial and deployment models to be presented in August. Following the NSW Governments’ evaluation, groups with viable solutions aligned to the project’s objectives may be invited to submit detailed proposals for funding to implement their active sharing solution(s) later in 2022.

Mr Lambourne said, “Active sharing can deliver improved mobile coverage in blackspot locations, and BAI is proud to play a role in this critical initiative. BAI is committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve the Department of Regional NSW’s active sharing partnership ambitions to make a transformational difference in the lives of people living and working across NSW.”