Press Release | 09 Oct 2023

Vodafone and Nokia partnership to give OpenRAN another boost

In a display of confidence in the OpenRAN ecosystem, Nokia (a traditional RAN vendor) is making a material commitment to the technology.

Vodafone and Nokia are expanding their existing partnership to run a 5G OpenRAN commercial pilot in Italy. While Nokia has been a long-term supplier across the Vodafone Group for many years, this is their first OpenRAN trial to take place on a live Vodafone network. The duo will also work alongside RedHat, Dell and Marvell to bring the pilot to life, while simultaneously demonstrating how OpenRAN can provide opportunities for new suppliers in the Vodafone business. 

This is also a display of confidence in the OpenRAN ecosystem, with Nokia (a vendor of traditional Radio Access Network equipment) making a material commitment to the ecosystem.

OpenRAN is a new way of building mobile networks. Instead of using a single vendor for an entire site, OpenRAN creates interoperability rules for vendors to follow. Being compliant to these rules enables telcos like Vodafone to mix and match components from different vendors. Not only does this increase competition in the market, it also allows Vodafone to bring in specialist suppliers for specific parts of a mobile site.

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

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Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, said: “OpenRAN is an ecosystem which is rapidly gathering momentum and our work in the UK shows why – there are so many benefits from the technological through to an internal cultural transformation. With more companies actively participating in the ecosystem development, we look forward to even more interesting ideas emerging.”

Mark Atkinson, Head of Radio Access Networks at Nokia, said: “Nokia’s collaborative anyRAN approach means that Communication Service Providers (CSPs) can deploy Cloud RAN with the server hardware and CaaS layer of their choice.

“Together with our ecosystem partners, we are committed to providing more choice and a higher performance in Open RAN solutions to our customers than they will see from other RAN suppliers.”

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.

As part of the commercial pilot: 

  • Vodafone will manage the integration of the different vendors.
  • Nokia will supply the radio components, as well as the software to manage the site. 
  • RedHat will provide the cloud application platform which will be hosted on Dell PowerEdge XR8000 servers.
  • Dell PowerEdge servers will support a Smart Network Interface Card (NIC) for Layer 1 processing, developed by Nokia in cooperation with Marvell.

The containerised cloud platform provided by RedHat (known as OpenShift) is an important component of the site, as this will allow other suppliers to incorporate their own software, bringing additional features and functionality to the site. This, combined with the OpenRAN interoperability rules, will enable the blend of different suppliers on the same site.

OpenRAN is a critical component of the overall Vodafone network strategy. In the UK, Vodafone has begun a project to install OpenRAN on 2500 sites across South West England and Wales. At a Group level, Vodafone has also committed to installing OpenRAN on 30% of mobile sites by 2030.

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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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