INTERVIEW: Howard Watson, CTIO at BT Group (pictured), admitted the telecoms industry tended to overhype technologies to begin with, as he questioned the near-term cost benefits of open RAN.

In an interview at MWC Barcelona 2022, Watson said it was good to see that “open RAN had moved from PowerPoint to some real equipment” at the event, while reiterating the company’s plans to deploy the approach later this year for small cells and neutral host.

This would accompany a trial BT is running with Nokia in the UK city of Hull, designed to bring the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) ecosystem to life.

While taking these steps, Watson explained BT would wait to see how open RAN develops from a 5G macro node perspective, with “scale deployment at the right economics some years away”.

On the touted cost benefits of open RAN compared with traditional infrastructure approaches, he added: “I think it’s still early. Naturally we as an industry overhype everything to start with and I am yet to see the real cost benefits come through. In the open architecture and multi-vendor ecosystem, the promise is there, but it needs to be delivered.”

In the interview, Watson also spoke of BT’s standalone 5G plans, his initial view on the metaverse and an update to the operator’s high-risk vendor equipment swap-out.

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