Operator Vodafone is installing new Open RAN sites in 20 cities across Romania, and took the opportunity to rather vigorously bang the Open RAN drum in general.

February 20, 2024

3 Min Read
Open RAN

For the deployment Vodafone has assembled Samsung for 2G, 4G and 5G radio and baseband units which will transmit customer traffic from the mast to the core network, Dell PowerEdge servers designed for cloud-based Open RAN workloads, and Containers as a Service (CaaS) software from Wind River.

This deployment follows some tests in Romania Vodafone started with Samsung and others last year.

“The momentum behind Open RAN technologies is building, in Vodafone and amongst our partners, as we focus on enhancing the customer experience,” said Alberto Ripepi, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone. “As new technologies like generative AI take root and are embedded within businesses, factories, and every day online interactions, they will require intelligence-based networks powerful enough to support them. Open RAN is designed to do just that.”

Vodafone boasts that it is ‘at the forefront of building a stronger vendor ecosystem through Open RAN’, referencing other European trials and the commercial rollout of Open RAN to 2500 sites in the UK, which started in August 2023.

The release serves as much to extol the virtues of Open RAN in general as it does to shine light on its project in Romania.

‘These initiatives prove that Open RAN’s performance is either on a par or exceeds that of the legacy equipment in most measurements, including 4G and 5G call success rate, as well as download and upload speeds across multiple spectrum frequencies,’ claims the release.

It goes on to explain how it will eventually allow operators to reduce costs by sharing all hardware components while independently managing their own RAN software on a common cloud infrastructure, and that in the future Open RAN’s ‘superior flexibility’ will allow customers to take ‘full advantage’ of 5G SA.

This is certainly the sort of pitch offered up for the ultimate dream of Open RAN by its proponents, however it might be laying it on a bit thick to say that’s it’s now been proven that Open RAN is as good as or better than ‘legacy’ kit deployments, and what taking ‘full advantage’ of 5G SA means is not obvious.

It is still early days for Open RAN, and while progress has been made and can be acknowledged, as often as not announcements about the sector are about more trials, and the commercial networks that do exist in the wild are obviously on a comparatively much smaller scale than the networks already built by the big kit vendors.

Much of the claimed benefits of Open RAN is about fostering future innovation – making the conditions so that a new batch of companies can enter the marketplace and come up with new and better ways of building niche areas of a network in years to come. And that vision may well be born out in the fullness of time, but we’re certainly not there yet.   

One can be an Open RAN cheerleader and still recognise there are challenges ahead for properly significant adoption to be achieved, as we explore in our Guide to Open RAN deep dive.   

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