Sunday, 27 September 2020

Vodafone’s 4G OpenRAN goes live in the UK

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 06 August 20

The latest step in Vodafone’s Open RAN experiments see the technology switched-on commercially for the first time

Open RAN increasingly holds major promise for operators. Using vendor-neutral, disaggregated RAN components, both hardware and software, operators can eschew their reliance on traditional vendor giants in favour of a broader, more flexible, and often cheaper vendor ecosystem.    This technology is especially appealing given the geopolitical environment right now, where some governments are pressuring operators to eliminate their reliance on Huawei and other &lsquo…

Open RAN increasingly holds major promise for operators. Using vendor-neutral, disaggregated RAN components, both hardware and software, operators can eschew their reliance on traditional vendor giants in favour of a broader, more flexible, and often cheaper vendor ecosystem. 
 
This technology is especially appealing given the geopolitical environment right now, where some governments are pressuring operators to eliminate their reliance on Huawei and other ‘high-risk’ vendors. 
 
However, Open RAN technology is still in its infancy in comparison to more traditional RAN solutions, with major vendors like Ericsson saying that the technology simply cannot compete in its current stage of development.
 
This has not stopped many operators from ramping up their exploration of the new technology, however; Vodafone is one of many operators who have been trialing the technology, doing so in the UK towards the end of 2019.
 
Now, Vodafone has commercially launched the first 4G OpenRAN network in the UK at the Royal Welsh Showground in Powys, Wales.
 
“This is our first live OpenRAN site in the UK, and that’s an important milestone,” said Vodafone UK CTO Scott Petty. “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.”
 
This development was part of Vodafone’s ongoing efforts to improve rural connectivity, with the press release linking this deployment to the first Shared Rural Network (SRN) site launch, also in Wales, as well as the Scottish 4G Infill Programme. The extent to which OpenRAN technology can make a unique contribution to the coverage of rural areas is unclear, but the additional flexibility the technology provides is sure to be a considerable factor. 
 
“I congratulate Vodafone on its first live OpenRAN site in the UK that will benefit people in Powys,” said  Matt Warman, UK Digital Infrastructure Minister. “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.”
 
This is not the only major OpenRAN development this week. Intel and VMware announced earlier this week that they would be collaborating to create a single unified platform from which to operate OpenRAN tech. 
 
 
What effect can OpenRAN have an operators' rural deployments? Will this new technology ultimately eclipse the current vendor giants? Find out from the experts at this year's Connected Britain
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