Press Release | 10 Mar 2022

Vodafone OpenRAN tech brings 4G coverage to seven UK rural communities

By using OpenRAN, Vodafone is bringing mobile coverage to more places than ever and helping to close the UK's digital divide.

Vodafone is using an innovative mobile technology called OpenRAN to enable it to extend its 4G network across the country. Morehampton, Lifton, Selborne, Pendine, Halkyn, Bradfield and Middleton-in-Teesdale are the first locations across Devon, Hampshire, Wales, Yorkshire and Country Durham to enjoy the benefits of OpenRAN technology.

These areas, which have traditionally struggled to receive good quality 4G mobile coverage from any network, now have a reliable 4G network from Vodafone. The arrival of the new technology will enable customers in these communities to enjoy reliable, fast mobile internet and calls.

OpenRAN is the future of 4G – and Vodafone is making it happen

Vodafone is leading a quiet revolution in the way 4G mobile phone networks are built and run. We explain what OpenRAN is and why it matters.

The activity is part of a network modernisation programme to improve 4G and 5G experience for all customers. This programme will see Vodafone retiring its 3G network in 2023 and replacing coverage with strengthened 4G and 5G services, so customers across more parts of the UK can access a more reliable connection through the Vodafone network.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: “Any improvement to mobile coverage is good news but Vodafone’s pioneering use of this cutting-edge technology is particularly welcome.

“The adoption of Open RAN is crucial to our plans to reduce the UK’s reliance on just a handful of suppliers building and maintaining our telecoms networks, and we encourage other operators to follow Vodafone’s lead and roll out this technology as soon as possible.”

Andrea Donà, Vodafone’s Chief Network Officer in the UK, said: “This new technology is helping us to deliver 4G coverage to new areas. With OpenRAN, we can bring 4G coverage to some of our most remote and rural communities for the first time, helping to give more people a digital connection and closing the digital divide.

“As part of our network modernisation programme, we will continue to invest in our network across the UK to ensure it continues to benefit from our best network.”

OpenRAN technology enables mobile operators to build new sites more cost effectively with Vodafone committing to 2,500 5G and 4G OpenRAN sites live by 2027.

Vodafone switches on first 5G OpenRAN site

Vodafone plans to have 2,500 OpenRAN sites live by 2027.

These towns are some of the first Vodafone OpenRAN 4G sites to go live in the UK. In summer 2021, sites were switched on at Cornwall’s Fistral Beach and St Keverne.

They followed the Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, Powys, where a site was the first to use the technology and take commercial traffic in August 2020.

And in January 2022, Vodafone switched on the UK’s first OpenRAN site to carry live 5G traffic in Bath.

Today’s announcement builds on other Vodafone initiatives to extend 4G and 5G services to rural communities. These include the Shared Rural Network, a £1bn joint initiative between Government and the UK’s four mobile network operators to extend overall 4G coverage to 95% of the UK landmass by the end of 2025.

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About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

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