Orange and Vodafone to share networks in rural Romania
Orange and Vodafone are looking for strategic vendors for a pioneering open RAN collaboration in Romania.
The companies said today that have agreed to build an open radio access network (RAN) with RAN sharing in rural parts of Europe where they both have mobile networks, starting in Romania.
Michaël Trabbia (pictured), chief technology and innovation officer (CTIO) at Orange, said: “It is a major step towards agile and fully-automated networks, unleashing the potential of virtualisation and AI to boost performance while driving both infrastructure and operational costs down.”
This is the first time that two companies have agreed to share Open RAN networks in Europe, but the announcement comes just a day after Orange and Vodafone published a strategy document with Telefónica, TIM and Vodafone on the use of open RAN.
The five said they plan to deploy open RAN networks, following trials that are already in place, with new pilots to be announced for this year and larger scale deployments from 2025.
In today’s announcement, Orange and Vodafone said they will deploy the first commercial sites under this agreement this year in a rural area of Romania, near Bucharest.
“They will provide an initial real-life experience of this new operational model based on the integration of multi-vendor hardware and software, paving the way for wider scale deployments.” The two said they are “working to individually select strategic vendors for this initial build phase”.
Alberto Ripepi, chief network officer of Vodafone, said: “Open RAN also means we can more quickly add new software features without necessarily replacing the hardware components, which is often the case today. This minimises any disruption to service and ensures customers in rural areas receive the same upgrades as those in the cities.”
Unlike conventional network sharing agreements, with open RAN sharing, Orange and Vodafone can “reap the benefits of a truly open infrastructure, allowing the sharing of all hardware components (radio units and cloud infrastructure) while independently managing their own RAN software on a common cloud infrastructure”, the companies said.
“As a result, each company can tailor services and capacity to their specific customer needs, while ensuring a strong and secure isolation between each operator’s data.”
Trabbia said: “In particular, open RAN is a great opportunity to take network sharing to a whole new dimension, with even higher operator differentiation thanks to the ability for each of the partners to tune its network more independently according to its promises towards its own customers.”