Deutsche Telekom plans to start commercial rollouts of Open RAN in Germany and further afield later this year, having decided that the technology is now sufficiently grown-up.

We knew it was coming. Just last week the German incumbent noted that commercial deployment would come “soon” in a comment accompanying the latest statement of intent from the European telcos’ Open RAN club, of which Deutsche Telekom is a founder member. We didn’t know how soon though.

And we still don’t.

At Mobile World Congress the telco said it has picked Nokia and Fujitsu as its partners for an initial commercial Open RAN introduction in its home market “from 2023 onwards.” That’s pretty vague. Similarly, Deutsche Telekom said it will partner with Mavenir for an initial multi-vendor deployment – other vendors to be named anon, presumably – in its European footprint, also starting this year.

“Open RAN has matured over the last months in both stability and performance, which has given us the confidence for an initial commercial deployment. Together with Nokia, Mavenir and other ecosystem partners, we will use our collaboration as the springboard to accelerate open RAN development and create a path to deployment at scale,” said Abdu Mudesir, Deutsche Telekom Group CTO & CTO Germany, in part repeating the comment he made alongside the aforementioned European telco group’s latest Open RAN missive.

The point about maturity is important, though. Deutsche Telekom was an early advocate for the technology and launched its so-called O-RAN Town in Neubrandenburg as long ago as mid-2021. That deployment essentially served as a test bed for the technology across a planned 25 sites.

But as Light Reading learned at the back end of last year, all did not quite go to plan in  Neubrandenburg, with the operator halting its request for quotation (RFQ) for Open RAN kit because it was all starting to look a bit tricky, especially with regard to putting it all together. Officially, Deutsche Telekom simply said it was still in the process of selecting vendors, and indicated a 2023-2024 launch timeframe.

That was less than three months ago, yet here we are. The technology has apparently matured pretty rapidly and the telco is ready to go. Or a least, it is using the MWC platform to tell us it is ready to go.

The sites at Neubrandenburg are built on a multi-vendor Open RAN architecture with open fronthaul support and equipment from Nokia and Fujitsu, Deutsche Telekom said. Nokia will deliver the baseband units, while both vendors will supply O-RAN compliant remote Radio Units (O-RUs). Elsewhere in the operator’s European footprint – it did not specify in which of its 10 markets across Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Greece – Mavenir will provide cloud native baseband software for the 4G and 5G distributed units (O-DU) and central units (O-CU), including for the open fronthaul based mMIMO radio units.

“Other partners to be announced in due course,” Deutsche Telekom said.

It’s worth pointing out that while Fujitsu and Mavenir were both included in the Neubrandenburg, along with Dell, Intel and NEC, Nokia was not. And yet it appears to have an instrumental role in the telco’s Open RAN rollout in its domestic market. That’s something of a win for the Finnish vendor.

“Open RAN is critical to Deutsche Telekom’s strategy to foster greater vendor diversity and accelerate customer focused innovation in the radio access network,” said Claudia Nemat, Board Member for Technology and Innovation.

We’ll find out in the fullness of time just how diverse Deutsche Telekom wants its vendor pool to be.

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