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Vodafone to run first European OpenRAN technology tests in the UK

Vodafone to run first European OpenRAN technology tests in the UK

Vodafone to focus UK trials of OpenRAN technology on 120 rural areas Vodafone is to become the first wireless carrier to run European tests of OpenRAN, a cellular infrastructure technology that promises to lower call costs. OpenRAN is an initiative of the Telecom Infra Project to define and build radio-access network solutions based on general

Vodafone to run first European OpenRAN technology tests in the UK

Vodafone to focus UK trials of OpenRAN technology on 120 rural areas

Vodafone is to become the first wireless carrier to run European tests of OpenRAN, a cellular infrastructure technology that promises to lower call costs.

OpenRAN is an initiative of the Telecom Infra Project to define and build radio-access network solutions based on general purpose, vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology. Co-chair of the group is Vodafone Group Services RAN product manager Devang Solanky, alongside Intel’s Adnan Boustany.

The aim is to improved the efficiency and flexibility of RAN infrastructure, focusing on software-defined principles.

How OpenRAN works. Image via the Telecom Infra Project

“Why is RAN so important? RAN equipment serves as the connection point between internet-connected devices and the rest of an operator’s core communications network. This critical infrastructure represents a significant portion of overall network CapEx [capital expenditure] and OpEx [operational expenditure].

“RAN processing is intensive, real-time, and complex; and the demands on RAN equipment are rising exponentially due to the rapid global growth of Internet-connected devices and new use cases,” the organisation claims.

Vodafone has tested OpenRAN in its labs in South Africa, but only deployed the technology in Turkey, at the moment, where it runs both 2G and 4G services. Now, though, the company is planning to trial OpenRAN across 120 rural areas in the UK, on top of trials in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.

The tests indicate that, at the moment, rather than rolling out OpenRAN in high-usage areas, Vodafone sees it as a way of extending or improving coverage in more sparsely populated areas – especially with the lowering of costs that OpenRAN is expected to bring.

In addition, Vodafone sees OpenRAN technology helping to improve network resilience.

Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read said: “We are pleased with trials of OpenRAN and are ready to fast-track it into Europe as we seek to actively expand our vendor ecosystem. OpenRAN improves the network economics, enabling us to reach more people in rural communities, and that supports our goal to build digital societies in which no-one is left behind.”

According to the specialist website ISPReview.co.uk, Vodafone is working with a number of new vendors that have started up to exploit OpenRAN technology, including Parallel Wireless and Mavenir in the US, and the UK’s Lime Microsystems.

Vodafone was the second UK network to switch-on its 5G network in the UK in London in July this year, a month after EE, with a pledge to add 19 more locations before the end of the year

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