Vodafone this week heralded the “successful” completion of a three-month open radio access network (RAN) trial in Italy on its standalone (SA) 5G network in the towns of Arcisate and Sernio in Italy. Carried out with network partner Nokia, the U.K.-based group said the results of the trial were “encouraging” in terms of speeds and latency, achieving mobile data download speeds of up to 1.1 Gbps and 160 Mbps uplink.

Since Vodafone recently agreed to sell its Italian operations to Swisscom, the trial in this market would appear to be more an exercise in gathering information and data points than a prelude to another market launch. The Swiss operator also recently indicated it is in no rush to deploy open RAN itself.

Notably, the Italy pilot has enabled Vodafone to test Nokia’s open RAN technology for the first time. The trial made use of the Finnish vendor’s AirScale Massive MIMO radios and RAN software running on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware servers from Dell Technologies using Red Hat’s cloud infrastructure, as well as Nokia’s intelligent MantaRay Networks Management system.

As one of Europe’s leading proponents of open RAN technology, the trial in Italy is one of a number of projects that Vodafone is carrying out across its footprint. Fierce Network got in touch with the operator to find out how it’s all going.

Flagship U.K. project

The over-arching aim is to have 30% of its masts in Europe based on open RAN technology by 2030, and a spokesperson for the operator said this goal has not changed. In general, Vodafone is “hugely encouraged by the comparable performance with standard RAN and massive MIMO to serve more densely populated areas,” the spokesperson added.

The group’s major open RAN undertakings to date include commercial deployments in Romania and the U.K. The spokesperson confirmed that it is “looking to deploy open RAN more widely but we’re not announcing specific plans at the moment.”

The flagship project in the U.K. has a target of deploying open RAN on at least 2,500 sites by 2027, in collaboration with partners Capgemini, Dell, Intel, NEC, Samsung and Wind River.

The U.K. installation was officially kicked off in August 2023, although the first 5G open RAN site was switched on in January 2022 and the first 4G site in 2020. All of this is supported by the U.K. government as part of efforts to remove Huawei equipment from networks and encourage open RAN technology.

In October last year, Andrea Dona, chief network officer with Vodafone UK, said the operator had deployed 22 sites in the towns of Torquay and Exeter.

Romania next in line

In February this year, Vodafone announced that it has started the commercial rollout of open RAN technology in 20 cities across Romania, again working with partner Samsung. Without providing any further details, the group’s spokesperson said the Romania rollout “is progressing well and to plan.”

The South Korean vendor is responsible for supplying 2G, 4G and 5G radio and baseband units, while Dell is providing Dell PowerEdge servers and Wind River the containers-as-a-service (CaaS) or abstraction layer software.

Vodafone Romania and Orange Romania also previously conducted a pilot to test 4G calls over a shared network based on open RAN technology, again with support from Dell, Samsung and Wind River.

Major tender now underway

A further major development is that Vodafone has just started the process for its previously announced request for quotes for open RAN technology across its entire global footprint of 170,000 sites, of which more than 100,000 are in Europe. While there is no deadline, the spokesperson said a tender of this kind can typically take around nine to twelve months.

Vodafone Group chief executive Margherita Della Valle also previously revealed that United Arab Emirates-based e&, which now owns 14.6% of Vodafone, will participate in the procurement exercise as part of the duo’s strategic alliance formed in May 2023.

Meanwhile, Francisco Martin Pignatelli, the group’s head of open RAN, has also made it clear that Vodafone intends to play a pivotal role in spreading the open RAN word and helping others to get on board.

Original article can be seen at: