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Vodafone activates UK's first 5G OpenRAN site

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Vodafone has switched on the UK’s first 5G OpenRAN site in Bath.

The site is the first of 2,500 5G and 4G OpenRAN sites that Vodafone plans to deploy and comes in support of the Government’s goal to accelerate the development of the OpenRAN ecosystem.

In celebration of the launch of the site, Vodafone UK’s chief network officer, Andrea Dona, carried out the first 5G video call over OpenRAN infrastructure to the UK's Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Julia Lopez, on 11 January.

"This phone call, the first in the UK to be made using 5G OpenRAN infrastructure, marks a big step forward for innovation in UK telecoms. OpenRAN will have an important role to play in the future of our mobile networks and I congratulate Vodafone for being the first to make it happen," said Lopez.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter for the mobile industry. Our team has been working tirelessly to take OpenRAN technology from a theory in our lab to our customers in the real-world – it’s remarkable how much has been achieved in such a short period of time," said Dona.

Through the launch, the installation of equipment at the new site marks a number of firsts including, the start of the first scaled OpenRAN project in Europe, with 2,500 sites pledged by 2027 and the first time OpenRAN technology has been deployed on a UK macro site to carry live customer traffic.

As part of the first site installation, a range of OpenRAN-compliant technology will be deployed including, Samsung vRAN Solutions, as well as technical, product and integration support; Dell Common Off The Shelf servers; Intel technologies comprised of Intel Xeon processors, workload acceleration and connectivity; and Wind River Studio for management of containerised Open RAN CU/DU workloads, automation, orchestration, and lifecycle management of network functions.

“As a global leader, we are proud to begin the UK’s first wide-scale OpenRAN commercial deployment, delivering carrier-grade 5G vRAN solutions to Vodafone," said Thomas Riedel, head of Samsung Networks Europe at Samsung Electronics.

“Vodafone’s commitment to pushing OpenRAN technologies forward will deliver new levels of innovation to its customers, partners and the open ecosystem," commented Dennis Hoffman, senior vice president and general manager, Dell Technologies Telecom Systems Business.

“As the de facto infrastructure for OpenRAN/5G vRAN and only 5G solution that is commercially deployed at scale, Wind River Studio enables flexible networks and offers validated architectures to help service providers quickly and reliably deploy new services with industry-leading total cost of ownership,” said Paul Miller, chief technology officer at Wind River.

“Intel is pleased to be among a diverse ecosystem of Open RAN partners supporting Vodafone’s innovative network launch,” said Cristina Rodriguez, vice president and general manager – wireless access networking division at Intel.

In addition, Capgemini Engineers and Keysight Technologies have provided testing and integration services in the Vodafone lab to ensure interoperability of the multi-vendor ecosystem.

From mid-2022 OpenRAN 4G and 5G antennas from Samsung and NEC will be deployed. Once interoperability tests for these radio units have been completed, the units can be deployed in a ‘plug and play’ manner on the existing OpenRAN infrastructure.

"OpenRAN and network disaggregation are key challenges for telecom operator’s transformation towards sustainability and automation. Thanks to our dedicated teams we are helping Vodafone pioneer the OpenRAN transformation,” said Massimo Rocca, global account director for Vodafone at Capgemini Engineering.

“Keysight solutions leverage common software platforms with built-in test automation, which enable continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) for accelerated innovation,” added Scott Bryden, vice president and general manager of Keysight's operator industry solutions unit.

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