The operator said the group will work together to develop one of the world’s largest Open RAN networks

Vodafone is continuing to push forward with its Open RAN plans this year, today announcing a raft of new partners set to jointly develop the first commercial deployment of Open RAN technology in Europe.

The partners – Dell Technologies, NEC, Samsung, Wind River, Capgemini Engineering, and Keysight Technogies – will work with Vodafone on both 4G and 5G, aiming to expand rural coverage across the South West of England and most of Wales, moving into urban areas in a later phase. 

The operator noted that it would be looking to deploy Open RAN technology in other European and African markets in future.

Vodafone has been a key exponent for Open RAN technology for some time now. Back in October 2020, the Vodafone UK announced that it would replace one third of the total Huawei equipment in its networks with Open RAN alternatives, following the government ordering the removal of the Chinese vendor from UK networks by 2027. This commitment equates to around 2,500 sites across the UK and it is these that will be the first to be upgraded by the new group of Open RAN partners, according to Vodafone.

Vodafone also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the start of 2021, aiming to collaborate on Open RAN development alongside Telefonica, TIM, Orange, and Deutsche Telekom. By April, Vodafone had launched a UK-based Open RAN laboratory and, earlier this month, announced that two new Open RAN sites had gone live in Cornwall, with “hundreds more” set to come.

“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,” said Vodafone’s Chief Technology Officer, Johan Wibergh. “Open RAN is also reinvigorating our industry. It will boost the digital economy by stimulating greater tech innovation from a wider pool of vendors, bringing much needed diversity to the supply chain.”

Going into further detail on the partners themselves, it seems that Samsung will be providing the reference RAN software, while both Samsung and NEC will supply the Massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) technology. Dell’s EMC PowerEdge servers will support the combined distributed unit/contralised unit (DU/CU) function running Containers as a Service software from Wind River Studio, which will ultimately provide a distributed cloud-native platform hosting the Open RAN applications and virtualised RAN from Samsung.

Finally, Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies are providing support to ensure interoperability between all the components.

In related news, today has also seen Vodafone UK announce that it has selected Samsung for its 5G network equipment, making a significant milestone for the South Korean vendor. 

Samsung is increasingly being touted as a potential replacement for Huawei in various markets around the world where the Chinese vendor is facing sanctions. Their biggest success in recent years came in the US, winning a $6.6 billion deal to supply Verizon with network equipment.

Now, with a major contract for 5G in the UK as well as a growing role in the development of Open RAN, Samsung’s European prospects are looking up.


How will Open RAN technology change the telecoms landscape in the UK? Find out what the experts have to say at this year’s live Connected Britain event

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