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Vodafone Names 4G and 5G OpenRAN Suppliers for EU and UK

Monday, June 14th, 2021 (9:30 am) - Score 2,736
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Mobile operator Vodafone has today announced that their forthcoming commercial rollout of a new 4G and 5G network using Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) compliant kit will be supported by several key vendors, including: Dell, NEC, Samsung Electronics, Wind River, Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies.

At present if a mobile operator wants to buy new network kit, then they can usually only choose from a handful of big suppliers (Nokia, Ericsson etc.). The O-RAN approach seeks to standardise the design and functionality of such kit and software, thus increasing the number of companies able to supply them via vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology (the RAN side covers infrastructure, masts and antennae).

Last year Vodafone became the first UK mobile network operator to announce plans for a major rollout of O-RAN to upgrade 2,600 sites across rural Wales and South West England (here), which at the time was due to start in 2022 and complete by 2027. The reason for the delayed start is due to the O-RAN ecosystem (suppliers, kit and software) needing more time to develop.

However, today’s announcement states that work on their commercial rollout in rural parts of the UK should be “starting this year … [before] moving into urban areas in a later phase.

Johan Wibergh, Vodafone CTO, 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.

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.”

We suspect that most ordinary consumers won’t actually notice the gradual introduction of OpenRAN, since it’s more about improving the seamless bits behind the scenes. On the other hand, the potential cost savings, greater coverage and greater network flexibility could aid future coverage and thus service performance.

On the flip side, we’re still in the early stages here, and it will take time to fully realise the benefits. Big suppliers may initially still be better at providing support than lots of smaller fry, and early O-RAN kit tends to be quite power hungry. Lest we forget that the big suppliers are also adapting to O-RAN, much as can be seen by Samsung being included above.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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