Vodafone names partners for Europe's first commercial open RAN network
Vodafone has named the vendors selected to jointly deliver what it said will be the first commercial deployment of open RAN in Europe.
Dell Technologies, NEC, Samsung, Wind River, Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies have all been selected to work on what Vodafone has described as one of the largest open RAN networks in the world.
Johan Wibergh, Vodafone CTO, said: “Open RAN provides huge advantages for customers. Our network will become highly programmable and automated meaning we can release new features simultaneously across multiple sites, add or direct capacity more quickly, resolve outages instantly and provide businesses with on-demand connectivity.
“Open RAN is also reinvigorating our industry. It will boost the digital economy by stimulating greater tech innovation from a wider pool of vendors, bringing much needed diversity to the supply chain.”
Initially, Vodafone’s focus will be on the 2,500 UK sites that it committed to open RAN in October 2020. It is one of the largest deployments in the world and will be built jointly with Dell, NEC, Samsung and Wind River.
Vodafone also expects to use new radio equipment defined under the Evenstar programme, a joint initiative it contributes to. Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies are providing support to ensure interoperability between all the components.
Starting this year, the vendors will work with Vodafone to extend 4G and 5G coverage to more rural places across the South West of England and most of Wales, moving into urban areas in a later phase. Vodafone is also working to launch open RAN in other countries within both Europe and Africa.
Samsung's entry into the 5G market has come as somewhat of a surprise. It landed a $6 billion deal with Verizon in September and since then has worked with NTT Docomo on its 5G kit and has signed a multi-year global patent license agreement with Ericsson.
Executives from Telefonica and Orange Group have previously told Reuters that they have held talks with the firm.
Richard Webb, director of network infrastructure at CCS Insights said its latest deal with Vodafone is "the culmination of good momentum Samsung has been building".
He continued: “The contact win shows that Samsung is becoming a credible 5G RAN equipment provider. Although Ericsson and Nokia have established market leadership in Europe, there is room for alternatives and now that Huawei's position has been undermined by trade restrictions, it leaves the door open to Samsung to stake a claim for a growing share of the market. It still has a long way to go to catch Ericsson and Nokia though, but Samsung has a well-rounded 5G RAN portfolio across mobile broadband, fixed wireless access and private 5G networks so it should be seen as a genuine contender.”
Webb added: "This contract win adds to its credibility and could be a signal for other European operators to consider Samsung as an option.”
Meanwhile in the African market, Vodafone Group and Telecom Egypt have agreed to and signed a new shareholders' agreement and dividend structure.
Telecom Egypt, holder of 45% of the capital of Vodafone Egypt, and Vodafone Group, and also parent company of the Egyptian subsidiary, reached the agreement on Wednesday 9 June. The breakthrough followed three years of negotiations.
Ehab Taha, partner and director of commercial affairs at Al Tamimi & Company, the corporate and commercial law firm that advised Telecom Egypt, was quoted in local media as saying: This agreement enhances the rights of Telecom Egypt as a shareholder in Vodafone Egypt for Telecommunications and sets the way forward for a true partnership between Telecom Egypt and Vodafone Group for future years to come. The new agreement will lead to further stability and enhancement in the mobile telecommunication market in Egypt.”
The agreement includes changes to Vodafone Egypt’s dividend policy, whereby it will pay a one-time dividend of EGP10 billion to its shareholders during the 2021 calendar year – of which, EGP 2 billion was paid in March. The parties have also agreed on a minimum dividend pay-out ratio of 60% of free cash flow going forward.