Vodafone Activates First European Open RAN Sites in U.K. Seaside Towns


Vodafone (NASDAQ: VOD) says its customers in Torquay and Exmouth in southeast England now have data download speeds of up to 700 Mbps on their smartphones enabled by Open Radio Access Network technology. 

Torquay and Exmouth, seaside resort towns with a combined population of over 87,000 people, are the first urban locations in Europe with a 5G Open RAN network. With more than 99 percent availability, customers can get high-speed data connections at twice the speed of the 4G network without delays, and with enhanced streaming quality.

Currently, Vodafone has 14 sites live in the U.K., referred to as the ‘golden cluster.’ A fifth of all the U.K.’s sites will be based across Wales and the West Country and will be live within the next five years. The roll-out plan includes five cities with over 100,000 citizens – Exeter, Plymouth, Swansea, Telford, and Birkenhead. Vodafone says it is committed to having 30 percent of all its mobile sites across the U.K. and its 11 EU markets running on Open RAN technology by 2030. 

This enhanced performance is achieved in part with multiple-input multiple-output antenna technology that significantly increases network performance in both uplink and downlink. MIMO technology increases the capacity of a wireless connection using the same bandwidth, thus expanding the connectivity capability of the cell site.

“As the first commercial urban deployment of Open RAN in Europe, we’ve been keen to test the network’s performance. From improved internet speeds to greater access to 5G, we can already see the benefits for customers in these towns,” said Alberto Ripepi, Vodafone Chief Network Officer.

Vodafone has recruited a notable lineup of Open RAN vendors including Samsung Electronics, NEC, Dell, Wind River, Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies, Electronic Weekly.com reported.

Vodafone also expects to use new radio equipment defined under the Evenstar program, a joint effort between Facebook and Vodafone, to create ‘white box’ radio units within the Telecom Infra Project. This initiative will provide vendors with detailed specifications needed to develop compatible radio units much more cheaply and to encourage new innovation players to enter the market to boost the ecosystem.

Samsung is the reference RAN software provider. Samsung and NEC will supply Massive MIMO antennas along with Samsung and Evenstar radio units. Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies provide test support to ensure interoperability between all the components.

Because of its modular design, Vodafone expects to keep improving its 5G service by provisioning and installing units from specialized suppliers for niche, and more intelligent services. Open RAN will also allow Vodafone to introduce innovative features simultaneously across multiple sites, add or direct capacity and resolve outages instantly.

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