News | 22 Dec 2021

OpenRAN hits new milestone with ‘containerised’ software

New software capability would allow workplaces to customise their mobile coverage as they see fit.

OpenRAN, the new way to build mobile network masts using equipment from more than one vendor, has hit another technological milestone.

Vodafone, working with software specialists Mavenir, has successfully tested voice and data over an OpenRAN mast small enough to provide dedicated mobile coverage for a workplace. The company has also successfully tested it with ‘containerised’ software that would enable businesses to customise the capabilities of a workplace OpenRAN mast more easily to suit their needs.

The ‘small cell’ OpenRAN mast was tested with containerised software in a lab.

Although only the software used to control the mast’s radio transmitter and receiver was containerised in this test, in future other software could be containerised, too, giving businesses the flexibility to add new software features as and when needed.

When software is containerised, it and all the various dependent files that it needs to run are neatly gathered into a single bundle. This bundle or container can then be installed, used and removed much more easily than software without containerisation. In contrast, when you install a typical computer program on a home PC, the files can be scattered across many locations, making uninstalling more difficult. Containerised software avoids this issue.

It is also much easier to use on different hardware configurations, as containers can use specific, standardised ways of communicating with hardware. This is especially important for OpenRAN where software must work consistently and reliably on masts of varying configurations with hardware from different manufacturers.

Andrea Dona, Vodafone’s UK Chief Network Officer, said: “OpenRAN is opening doors to simplified and intuitive connectivity solutions. For our wider network deployment strategy, OpenRAN is enabling us to work with a wider pool of suppliers and to avoid vendor lock-in scenarios that might prevent us from taking advantage of the latest innovations. The same could be said for enterprise connectivity solutions.

“From the moment Open RAN is deployed in an office environment, customers are no-longer locked into a single upgrade path. Working alongside Vodafone, customers can be more flexible in how connectivity solutions are adapted and upgraded as demands evolve in the future.”

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