Vodafone has begun the latest phase of its OpenRAN deployment strategy to install the exciting technology on 16 mobile masts providing connectivity to customers in Exmouth and Torquay.
The roll-out, which will take place over the next three months, will be the first time in Europe that OpenRAN will have been deployed in an urban environment, providing live connectivity services to all consumer and business customers. To date, OpenRAN deployments have focused on more rural locations.
Vodafone has been working alongside the industry to advance OpenRAN technology, such as through its two OpenRAN Research and Development centres in Newbury and Malaga. This has enabled deployments in more complex environments (such as urban locations and transport hubs).
Vodafone investment in South West to bring benefits to local communities, businesses and visitors
Beachfront and rural locations in Cornwall are among the first in the UK to benefit from new OpenRAN 4G technology.
Deployment of OpenRAN in an urban location demonstrates that the technology is a viable alternative to traditional RAN in all scenarios, not just in rural locations. And with interoperability embedded at the foundation, OpenRAN is a driver of innovation, enabling Vodafone to work with businesses outside the traditional telecommunications ecosystem.
Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, said: “Vodafone was one of the first companies worldwide to commit to OpenRAN at scale. The potential of OpenRAN is huge and clear to see. But to realise this potential, we need to deploy the technology out in the live network and take it from rural to urban locations.
“This is what we have now done – taking lab innovations into the real world and an essential step forward for the health and resilience of our industry.”
Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: “Vodafone’s use of OpenRAN in Devon is the first of its kind in Europe, proving once again that the UK is a leader in innovative solutions for mobile connectivity.
“We encourage other providers to roll out OpenRAN in urban areas and continue to support a more diverse, innovative and resilient telecoms supply chain through our £250m investment programme.”
OpenRAN is a critical component of Vodafone’s wider network strategy. Not only can OpenRAN lower the barrier for entry for alternative suppliers to add greater resilience and diversity to Vodafone’s supply chain, but this additional competition will also act as a catalyst for innovation, allowing suppliers to specialise in niche areas as opposed to providing “turnkey” solutions.
By decoupling different components of the mobile site from each other through interoperability specifications, Vodafone can work with innovators it would otherwise not have been able to. This flexibility will mean the introduction of new technology and software to increase the energy efficiency of operations, the ability to introduce new specialist services, and will allow Vodafone to prioritise investments in new ways as upgrade paths of hardware and software components are no longer intrinsically linked.
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As part of this latest deployment, Vodafone worked with Dell, Intel, Samsung, Wind River, and Capgemini, demonstrating the breadth and depth OpenRAN enables in the telecommunications supply chain.
At Mobile World Congress 2022, Vodafone committed to deploying OpenRAN on 30% of mobile sites across its European network by 2030. More recently, Vodafone began OpenRAN trials in Germany, as well as signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NTT Docomo. A partnership has also been signed with Nokia to jointly develop a fully OpenRAN compliant solution that incorporates Nokia’s ReefShark system on a chip (SoC).