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Vodafone UK Starts Large Scale Build of OpenRAN to 2,500 Sites

Thursday, Aug 31st, 2023 (10:34 am) - Score 5,016

Broadband ISP and mobile operator Vodafone has today moved out of the pilot phase for its new 4G and 5G capable Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) technology and begun their “volume deployment“, which aims to reach 2,500 sites across mostly rural parts of Wales and the South-West of England by 2027.

Currently, if a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) wants to buy new radio kit then they’re often limited to a handful of big suppliers (Nokia, Ericsson etc.). The O-RAN approach seeks to introduce some flexibility and lower costs by standardising 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, and boosting interoperability.

NOTE: The Radio Access Network (RAN) covers infrastructure, masts and antennae.

Vodafone are currently leading the pack when it comes to O-RAN deployments, and they’ve already piloted it in several locations, such as Morehampton, Lifton, Selborne, Pendine, Halkyn, Bradfield and Middleton-in-Teesdale – spanning across Devon, Hampshire, Wales, Yorkshire and County Durham. We’ve also seen it go live across semi-urban parts of Devon, such as in the towns of Exmouth and Torquay, among other places.

According to the operator, the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from all those pilots have demonstrated that the performance of OpenRAN “exceeds that of the legacy equipment in the majority of areas, including 4G and 5G call success rate, download and upload speeds across multiple spectrum frequencies“. But they didn’t provide any solid data to substantiate that statement.

The good news today is that Vodafone has now begun the large-scale roll-out phase of their deployment, which is starting in Devon and will initially focus on locations that still have some old infrastructure from High-Risk Vendors (HRV) – this is normally a reference to kit from the now banned company Huawei.

Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, said:

“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.

Vodafone has been at the forefront of the OpenRAN ecosystem since Day One. OpenRAN is a central pillar to our network strategy for numerous reasons. Most importantly, we see this as a vehicle for transformation, opening doors that would otherwise have been closed.”

Sir John Whittingdale, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“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.

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.”

Vodafone’s OpenRAN programme is being supporting by various partners, including:

  • Samsung: 4G and 5G radio, including 64T64R Massive MIMO, as well as the software platform
  • Intel: General Purpose Processor (GPP), acceleration hardware and network interface cards
  • Keysight: Drive test services using Keysight Nemo Solutions to assure the OpenRAN end-to-end live network performance and pre deployment OpenRAN functional and interoperability testing using Keysight Open RAN Architect (KORA) solutions
  • Dell Technologies: Dell PowerEdge servers, designed for cloud based, OpenRAN workloads
  • Capgemini: Testing partner in Vodafone labs
  • Wind River: Cloud network platforms (also known as abstraction layer software)

Unfortunately, they haven’t revealed a detailed roll-out plan and timescale for all this, which would have been useful to know. But then mobile operators have never been very good about releasing such details.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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3 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Gig says:

    Can somebody explain, if they’ve covered Selborne why does the coverage map still show no coverage for that village?

    1. Avatar photo Dan says:

      It shows good indoors and outdoors 4G coverage for me.

    2. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      In my experience, coverage maps appear to be more cubist art than an accurate representation of mobile coverage.

Comments are closed

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