Vodafone has become the first UK mobile operator to switch on a live Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) 4G site enabling the introduction of more suppliers for mobile networks. The first site is connecting Vodafone customers around the Royal Welsh Showground in Powys, Wales.
Mobile network operators traditionally have very few suppliers to choose from, and greater diversity is essential. OpenRAN is a new way of building a mobile site.
Instead of being reliant on heavily-customised hardware available from only a few vendors, the capabilities of the mobile site are hosted as software in the cloud, with readily-available, low-cost hardware at the site.
The approach reduces cost, increases flexibility and enables new suppliers to support the roll-out of mobile networks across the UK. Mavenir is supporting Vodafone with the deployment at the Royal Welsh Showground.
With the first OpenRAN site now live, Vodafone will work to identify communities across the UK where they can more economically introduce voice and high-speed data using the new technology.
Builth Wells, home of Vodafone UK’s first OpenRAN mast.
Scott Petty, CTO, Vodafone UK, said: “This is our first live OpenRAN site in the UK, and that’s an important milestone. This new approach has the ability to make us less dependent on current larger technology suppliers, and find ways to reduce the cost of rolling out mobile coverage. OpenRAN can also help close the digital divide between urban and rural Britain.”
Matt Warman, Digital Infrastructure Minister, said: “OpenRAN gives mobile companies the flexibility to use multiple suppliers in their 4G and 5G networks. This is vital to help the market grow, build resilience and give people fast, reliable and secure internet connections wherever they live and work.
“I congratulate Vodafone on its first live OpenRAN site in the UK that will benefit people in Powys. This technology can make a real difference in improving connectivity in rural communities and I look forward to continuing to work closely with Vodafone and other operators on our plans to diversify the telecoms supply chain.”
Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said: “It’s great to see the UK’s first OpenRAN site switched on here in Wales, and in a rural area. It will bring improved connectivity, not only for the showground but also for the wider community. It can only be of benefit to open up the network to more suppliers and I welcome this development.”
Steve Hughson, Chief Executive of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, said: “We have worked hard in recent years to improve the connectivity on site, in recognition of the need to provide a modern event venue where people can trade and communicate at speed. This site and further network improvements planned are key in our ambition of creating one of the best connected rural event sites in the UK.”
Today’s announcement builds on a number of recent Vodafone initiatives to extend 4G and 5G services to rural communities. These include launching the UK’s first Shared Rural Network (SRN) site in Wales, and connecting residents in rural Scotland under the Scottish 4G Infill Programme.