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Vodafone announces plans for Open RAN commercial pilot in Germany

Vodafone announced plans to conduct a commercial pilot of 5G Open Radio Access Network (RAN) at mobile sites across two rural areas in Germany – its largest European market – starting in early 2023.

This will be the first deployment of Open RAN technology in Germany that is fully compliant with the specifications and roadmap endorsed by the leading mobile operators in Europe (The Open RAN MoU group). These specifications define an architecture for the use of secure, open and interoperable multi-vendor equipment and have been adopted by industry-body Telecom Infra Project (TIP) as the blueprint of choice for building Open RAN at scale in Europe.

Open RAN technology delivers benefits to both the industry and end users. Unlike traditional single-supplier mobile sites, Open RAN separates software from hardware. This means Vodafone can work with more suppliers to drive customer-focussed innovation through vendor diversity, whilst improving the resilience of the supply chain. Also, 5G, and later 6G, require more agile and automated networks based on common open architecture and open API’s. Open RAN can enable these new technologies to reach the full potential needed to support the EU digital economy.

Following successful field tests earlier this year in Plauen, Germany, Vodafone is now ready to take the next step in supporting the German Government’s ambition to grow the Open RAN ecosystem. Vodafone’s Open RAN pilot, using software and radio equipment from Samsung, will take place in the German states of South East Bavaria and North East Lower Saxony and marks the beginning of a wider roll-out within Germany over the next two to three years. It is a key stage in Vodafone’s plan to equip 30 per cent of all its European sites with Open RAN by 2030.

Santiago Tenorio, Director of Network Architecture for Vodafone, said: “This will be the first Open RAN system in Germany that not only uses open interfaces but is built on both hardware and software from multiple vendors that is fully interchangeable and interoperable based on the choice of the operator.

“It brings timely resilience to the supply chain, allowing us to work with a greater number and more diverse pool of suppliers. Greater competition also encourages innovation, leading to a better mobile experience for our customers.”

In future, Vodafone will examine opportunities for site sharing based on Open RAN across Europe. Under existing sharing agreements, one operator is typically responsible for all the component parts of a group of mobile sites covering a specific region, town, or city. With Open RAN, operators will not be constrained by location and can share common network architecture, whilst differentiating on software housed remotely.

CT Bureau

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