Vodafone names Samsung, Dell, NEC, among OpenRAN suppliers

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Vodafone has named the six partners that will help it deploy OpenRAN technologies at 2,500 sites in Wales and the South West of England by 2027.

Dell, NEC, Samsung, Wind River, Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies will all provide equipment or expertise in the rollout, which Vodafone helps will stimulate the OpenRAN ecosystem and assist with the removal of Huawei radio gear from its network.

The Radio Access Network (RAN) market has traditionally been dominated by a few major players who offer highly integrated cell sites comprising radio, hardware, and software. This approach has made it difficult for operators to mix and match innovations and has proved to be a significant barrier to entry for smaller vendors.

Vodafone OpenRAN

Open RAN is a vendor-neutral approach with standardised designs that allow a variety of firms to supply hardware and software. Operators believe this can increase innovation, reduce costs, and reduce dependency on the ‘big three’ of Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia.

Vodafone has been a keen supported of the technology and wants to be viewed as a telco leader for the Open RAN community. It has already staged trials in several European countries and switched on the UK’s first live Open RAN site in Wales earlier this year.

“Open RAN provides huge advantages for customers. Our network will become highly programmable and automated meaning we can release new features simultaneously across multiple sites, add or direct capacity more quickly, resolve outages instantly and provide businesses with on-demand connectivity,” said Johan Wibergh, Vodafone CTO.

“Open RAN is also reinvigorating our industry. It will boost the digital economy by stimulating greater tech innovation from a wider pool of vendors, bringing much needed diversity to the supply chain.”

This initial rollout will start later in 2021. Samsung and NEC will provide radio equipment while Dell will supply off-the-shelf PowerEdge servers and Wind River’s Containers as a Service (CaaS) will host applications and virtualised RAN (vRAN) from Samsung. Keysight Technologies and Capgemini Engineering will assist with testing and interoperability.

Vodafone also hopes to benefit from ‘white box’ radio units developed through its ‘Evenstar’ joint-effort with Facebook through the Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.