Vodafone activates the UK’s first live 5G Open RAN site

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Vodafone has switched on the UK’s first live 5G Open RAN site as part of thousands it has planned.

The groundbreaking site was delivered in partnership with Samsung, Wind River, Dell, Intel, Keysight Technologies, and Capgemini Engineering—proving the interoperability benefits of Open RAN.

Here’s what each partner is delivering:

  • Samsung: Virtualised Radio Access Network (vRAN) Solutions, as well as technical, product, and integration support
  • Dell: Common Off The Shelf (COTS) servers
  • Intel: Optimised solutions, including Intel Xeon processors, workload acceleration, and connectivity
  • Wind River: Providing its Studio solution for managing containerised Open RAN CU/DU workloads, automation, orchestration, and lifecycle management of network functions
  • Capgemini and Keysight Technologies: Testing and integration services to ensure interoperability of the multi-vendor ecosystem

Vodafone’s first Open RAN site is located in the historic city of Bath. However, the operator has committed to deploying 2,500 sites across the UK by 2027. 

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

“This is the beginning of a new chapter for the mobile industry.

Our team has been working tirelessly to take OpenRAN technology from a theory in our lab to our customers in the real world – it’s remarkable how much has been achieved in such a short period of time.

OpenRAN as a concept is only five years old, and we’re already fundamentally changing how we deploy connectivity infrastructure. This is a watershed moment in the telecoms industry, and a catalyst for change and evolution.”

The launch of the site was celebrated with the first 5G video call over OpenRAN infrastructure. The call was made by Vodafone UK’s Chief Network Officer Andrea Dona to the Minister for Digital Infrastructure Julia Lopez on 11 January 2021.

Open RAN is backed by the UK Government as offering greater diversity in telecoms infrastructure – lessening the impact of decisions like the one it made to ban Huawei from national networks – while increasing competition and lowering costs.

Last month, the UK Government set a target for 35 percent of the UK’s mobile network traffic to be carried over Open RAN architectures by 2030.

Julia Lopez, Digital Infrastructure Minister, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, commented:

“This phone call, the first in the UK to be made using 5G Open RAN infrastructure, marks a big step forward for innovation in UK telecoms.

Open RAN will have an important role to play in the future of our mobile networks and I congratulate Vodafone for being the first to make it happen.

The government is investing in the technology through our £250 million diversification strategy so we can deliver the amazing benefits of 5G for people and businesses with more diverse, resilient, and secure equipment in our networks.”

Vodafone says that OpenRAN 4G and 5G antennas from Samsung and NEC will be deployed from mid-2022. The radio units will be able to be deployed in a ‘plug and play’ manner on the existing OpenRAN infrastructure.

“As a global leader, we are proud to begin the UK’s first wide-scale OpenRAN commercial deployment, delivering carrier-grade 5G vRAN solutions to Vodafone,” said Thomas Riedel, Head of Samsung Networks Europe at Samsung Electronics.

“Based on our vRAN experience with tier-1 operators around the globe, this is another meaningful milestone for us, and we look forward to continue working with Vodafone.”

Related: Germany warns that Open RAN poses a security risk

Want to learn more about 5G and the opportunities it presents from industry leaders? Check out 5G Expo. The next events in the series will be held in Santa Clara on 11-12 May 2022, Amsterdam on 20-21 September 2022, and London on 1-2 December 2022.

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