Vodafone to build Europe's first commercial Open RAN network

Open RAN network

Vodafone has selected its vendor partners – Dell, Samsung, NEC, Wind River, Keysight Technologies and Capgemini Engineering – to jointly deliver the first Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) commercial deployment in Europe.

The company believes the move will spark other large-scale Open RAN launches and spearhead the next wave of digital transformation across Europe.

Vodafone said the partnerships would build on its new Open RAN lab in Newbury, southern England, and its planned digital skills hubs in Malaga, Spain, and Dresden, Germany.

Drive greater innovation

Pioneered by Vodafone and its partners, Open RAN network will drive greater innovation through a diverse and open vendor ecosystem. It will lead to a more cost-effective, secure, energy efficient and customer-focused network of the future.

Some of the advantages of OpenRAN network with political and industrial policy support from the European Commission and the national governments of the EU, is the potential to bring more European companies into this emerging market.

Vodafone and the other major EU telco signatories of the Open RAN Memorandum of Understanding believe this will help build a European ecosystem around these novel network architectures and boost the EU’s global technology leadership in digital infrastructure.

In addition, mobile operators and governments want to encourage the development of Open RAN technology to help more vendors enter a market dominated by Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia.

2,500 sites committed to Open RAN network

Vodafone’s initial focus will be on the 2,500 sites in the UK that it committed to Open RAN in October 2020. It is one of the largest deployments in the world and will be built jointly with Dell, NEC, Samsung and Wind River.

Vodafone also expects to use new radio equipment defined under the Evenstar program, a joint initiative it contributes to. Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies are providing support to ensure interoperability between all the components.

Starting this year, the vendors will work with Vodafone to extend 4G and 5G coverage to more rural places across the Southwest of England and most of Wales, moving into urban areas in a later phase.

Vodafone is also working to launch Open RAN in other countries within both Europe and Africa, enabling the digital society to be accessible to all, with no one left behind.

Johan Wibergh, Vodafone Chief Technology Officer, said: “Open RAN provides huge advantages for customers. Our network will become highly programmable and automated meaning we can release new features simultaneously across multiple sites, add or direct capacity more quickly, resolve outages instantly and provide businesses with on-demand connectivity.”