News | 31 Aug 2023

Huge network upgrade begins as Vodafone finishes OpenRAN tests

The rollout of OpenRAN across Wales and the south west is another part of Vodafone’s constant efforts to improve its UK network.

Vodafone has completed the testing phases of its OpenRAN programme and is now installing the technology across its network in South West England and Wales.

For the last several years, Vodafone has been working with the industry to ensure OpenRAN is a viable alternative to traditional technologies for building mobile masts. This has included numerous lab experiments and live network trials in both rural and urban scenarios. Each phase of testing was progressively more demanding.

The latest test in Exeter and Torquay, known as the Golden Cluster, was a 16-site installation to test the technology in a wide-geographical area encompassing urban, suburban and rural locations. It also tested OpenRAN against a variety of different consumer and business use cases, as the technology would support all mobile communications in any given area, not just smartphones.

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The Golden Cluster installation was a significant success. OpenRAN outperformed traditional masts in call success rates, as well as in download and upload speeds across multiple spectrum frequencies

Thanks to the completion of these live trials, Vodafone will now begin installing OpenRAN technology at scale starting in Devon. This is the first phase of Vodafone’s commitment to use OpenRAN technology in at least 2,500 sites by the end of 2027.

“The rapid innovation we have seen in the OpenRAN ecosystem is truly remarkable,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK.

“The industry only started working on this concept in 2016 in earnest, so to see KPIs align to traditional technology is a testament to the work which has been done.

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Beachfront and rural locations in Cornwall are among the first in the UK to benefit from new OpenRAN 4G technology.

“Vodafone has been at the forefront of the OpenRAN ecosystem since Day One. OpenRAN is a central pillar to our network strategy for numerous reasons. Most importantly, we see this as a vehicle for transformation, opening doors that would otherwise have been closed.”

OpenRAN is a critically important component of the Vodafone network strategy because of its long-term potential. It not only gives Vodafone greater flexibility in how it builds its network, it enables the company to work with new suppliers who can offer innovative ideas that would otherwise not have been available.

Sir John Whittingdale, Minister of State for Media and Data, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “The UK government is determined to strengthen the security and resilience of vital network infrastructure by protecting technology critical to the future digital economy and boosting competition and creativity within the telecom supply chain.

“This is an important step in doing just that – these deployments from Vodafone across Wales and the South-West of England are supporting the UK’s vision for a more open and innovative 5G market.”

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