2,500 Vodafone sites across Wales and the southwest of England are to have their legacy technology replaced by Open RAN kit.

Scott Bicheno

August 31, 2023

3 Min Read
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2,500 Vodafone sites across Wales and the southwest of England are to have their legacy technology replaced by Open RAN kit.

It has been around three years since Vodafone UK first started publicly mulling this technological paradigm shift. Since then we have seen a sequence of incremental dipping of toes in the water, as Open RAN was trialled first in rural settings, then more urban ones. All that due diligence has finally enabled Vodafone to reach the point when it feels confident enough to inflict Open RAN on the whole of the originally proposed region.

Wales and the southwest weren’t chosen at random; the sites in question need their Huawei kit replaced due to government mandate. So Vodafone figured it might as well give Open RAN a go, rather then just whacking in the usual fare from Ericsson or Nokia. Even now the plan is to tread carefully, with Devon serving as the guinea pig in a phased, multi-year rollout.

“The rapid innovation we have seen in the OpenRAN ecosystem is truly remarkable,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK. “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.”

Some of those doors may have their hinges lubricated by public money. Consequently, politicians like to sidle up to any signs of UK Open RAN progress in an apparent attempt to claim some of the credit.

“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,” said Sir John Whittingdale, UK Government Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure.

“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.”

One of the main points of Open RAN is to increase operators’ choice of vendor partners. In this rollout, Samsung is providing the radios and the software platform, Intel the requisite silicon, Keysight the testing as well as Vodafone Labs partner Capgemini, Dell the servers and Wind River the cloudy stuff.

“Vodafone has been a leader in Open RAN from the start,” said Paul Miller, Wind River CTO. “With this new milestone, Wind River is proud to collaborate with Vodafone and major ecosystem partners to advance the evolution of Open RAN. Wind River Studio delivers cloud-native solutions that enable the high-scale deployment of next-generation network infrastructure for service providers worldwide.”

“Now we are witnessing how innovative technologies like Open RAN and vRAN can further bolster 5G capabilities, creating new paths and possibilities for network evolution,” said Junehee Lee, Head of Global Sales & Marketing, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “Following this historic milestone in Europe, we will continue working together with Vodafone to take their Open RAN networks to new heights.”

Open RAN seems to be losing momentum globally but is still growing in Europe, perhaps driven by the cunning plan hatched by the region’s major MNOs. This deployment is the UK’s first and among the global trailblazers. The rest of the industry will be tracking the experiences of Vodafone’s Devonian customers closely and may well gain confidence in the technology if everything goes according to plan.

 

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About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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