The rollout will begin in Devon, replacing the “high risk” infrastructure from the now banned equipment vendor Huawei 

Vodafone has completed the testing phase of its Open RAN programme and is moving onto the ‘volume deployment’ phase, which aims to deploy the technology at 2,500 sites across rural Wales and the South-West of England by 2027. 

The operator has been conducting Open RAN tests for some time, both both lab experiments and live network trials, to ensure that the technology is a feasible alternative to the traditional RAN equipment. 

The most recent of these tests saw 14 Open RAN sites deployed in Exeter and Devon. Referred to as the “Golden Cluster”,  the live deployment tested Open RAN’s suitability for different consumer and business cases, and finding that Open RAN outperformed the traditional RAN in every instance. 

In addition to the Golden Cluster, Vodafone has already deployed Open RAN tech in numerous UK locations, spanning across Hampshire, Wales, Yorkshire, and County Durham. 

“The rapid innovation we have seen in the OpenRAN ecosystem is truly remarkable. The industry only started working on this concept in 2016 in earnest, so to see KPIs align to traditional technology is a testament to the work which has been done,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone. 

In 2020, under the new Telecoms Security Bill, the UK government banned the use of Huawei 5G equipment, with operators given until 2027 to remove and replace existing products. This has presented a major opportunity for Open RAN, which has been positioned as a more secure alternative to the “high risk” Huawei due to allowing software and equipment from numerous vendors to coexist and interoperate.  

“The UK government is determined to strengthen the security and resilience of vital network infrastructure by protecting technology critical to the future digital economy and boosting competition and creativity within the telecom supply chain,” said the UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale. 

This is an important step in doing just that – these deployments from Vodafone across Wales and the South-West of England are supporting the UK’s vision for a more open and innovative 5G market.” 

Details and timescales of the roll-out plan have not yet been released. 

How is the deployment of  OpenRAN technology changing the UK telecoms landscape? Find out from the experts themselves at this year’s live Connected Britain event 

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