Vodafone activates first live 5G OpenRAN site in UK
Vodafone has switched on the UK’s first 5G OpenRAN site. The site in Bath is the first of 2,500 5G and 4G OpenRAN sites that Vodafone has committed to which it claims represents a major step in supporting the Government’s ambition to accelerate the development of the OpenRAN ecosystem.
OpenRAN technology separates software from hardware, meaning more flexibility for mobile operators. Where previously one vendor would have delivered the whole solution, OpenRAN enables telecoms operators to work with more specialist suppliers.
Vodafone claims that not only will this diversify the telecoms supply chain, adding resilience to Critical National Infrastructure, it will also act as a catalyst for innovation. This could result in more energy-efficient telecoms equipment, as well as increasing the speed at which mobile operators can deploy next generation networks.
Last month, the UK Government and telecoms operators announced shared ambitions to expand support for the OpenRAN ecosystem. Vodafone has championed the OpenRAN ecosystem since its conception in 2016 and is actively using OpenRAN across many parts of the UK.
To celebrate the deployment of the site, the first 5G video call over OpenRAN infrastructure was made by Vodafone UK’s Chief Network Officer Andrea Dona to the Minister for Digital Infrastructure Julia Lopez.
Says Julia Lopez, Digital Infrastructure Minister, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:
“This phone call, the first in the UK to be made using 5G OpenRAN infrastructure, marks a big step forward for innovation in UK telecoms. OpenRAN 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.”
Adds Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK:
“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 technology is widely seen as a disruptor for the telecommunications industry, and Vodafone is one of the leaders supporting the development of this vendor ecosystem.
Capgemini Engineers and Keysight Technologies have provided testing and integration services in the Vodafone lab to ensure interoperability of the multi-vendor ecosystem. Once technologies and vendors have been verified as OpenRAN-compliant, deployment of equipment becomes a much simpler task.
OpenRAN 4G and 5G antennas from Samsung and NEC will be deployed from mid-2022. Once interoperability tests for these radio units have been completed in the lab, the units can be deployed in a ‘plug and play’ manner on the existing OpenRAN infrastructure.