Vodafone starts roll-out of commercial Open RAN in Romania

Vodafone is installing new open radio access network (RAN) sites in 20 cities across Romania to give customers a responsive network that will boost innovation and increase industrial efficiency.

Vodafone has long been a leading proponent of Open RAN technology, and regards it as the universal network for the future. It believes users can benefit from a fast and secure mobile network that can be scaled quickly and cost-effectively to meet peaks in demand, as well as new cloud-based services.

Open RAN is a critical component of Vodafone’s wider network strategy, and the company has committed to building a stronger supplier ecosystem through it, including the integration of multi-supplier hardware and software, and more recently, new dedicated silicon architecture.

It sees the technology as able to provide a platform for innovation that would not otherwise have been possible, offering new ways to enhance customer experience and introduce innovation at an accelerated pace. It’s also confident that what it calls Open RAN’s superior flexibility will allow customers to take full advantage of 5G Standalone (5GSA) networks offering low-latency applications and private “network slicing” for industries of all sizes.

In January 2022, Vodafone announced it was teaming up with Samsung Networks Europe to install the UK’s first 5G Open RAN site, and in February 2023 it began working with Orange to develop Open RAN sharing specifically for rural locations around Europe. In August 2023, Vodafone began commercial roll-out of Open RAN to 2,500 sites in the UK.

In Romania, Vodafone is working with several partners, including Samsung, for 2G, 4G and 5G radio and baseband units (for transmitting customer traffic from the mast to the core network), Dell PowerEdge servers designed for cloud-based Open RAN workloads from Dell Technologies, and containers as a service software from Wind River (also known as abstraction layer software).

The operator said these initiatives had proved that Open RAN’s performance is either on a par with 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.

The commercial deployment in Romania will cover urban cities aiming to deliver high-quality and reliable commercial network services to Vodafone’s customers. It will eventually allow operators to share hardware components such as example radio units, and potentially reduce costs, while independently managing their own RAN software on a common cloud infrastructure. As a result, each company can tailor services and capacity to their specific customer needs, while ensuring each operator’s data is securely isolated.

“The momentum behind Open RAN technologies is building, in Vodafone and amongst our partners, as we focus on enhancing the customer experience,” said Vodafone chief network officer Alberto Ripepi.

“As new technologies like generative AI take root and are embedded within businesses, factories and everyday online interactions, they will require intelligence-based networks powerful enough to support them. Open RAN is designed to do just that.”

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