Vodafone and Dell partner on first commercial Open RAN in Europe

5 Jul 2021

Image: © nmann77/Stock.adobe.com

The telecoms giant will deploy Dell EMC PowerEdge servers at thousands of locations across the UK as part of the open network.

Vodafone and Dell Technologies will work together to build the first open radio access network (Open RAN) in Europe.

The two companies say that the new network and those that follow will provide “more broadband access to European businesses and communities” and “drive connectivity across Europe”.

Open RAN differs from traditional radio access networks by allowing different parts of the network’s infrastructure to be built by different vendors. This is achieved by establishing standards for how different pieces of equipment interface, so that network providers can be sure of the interoperability of components from various suppliers.

Proponents of the Open RAN standard hope that it will improve flexibility and lower costs through increasing competition and encouraging innovation. The European Commission has ordered a study into Open RAN and stated a desire to promote standardisation and interoperability in telecoms generally.

“Open and standardised networks will power innovation and new revenue opportunities for the telecommunications industry and businesses of all kinds,” according to Dennis Hoffman, who leads Dell Technologies’ telecom systems business.

“We’re applying our decades of experience in open standards and digital transformation to help Vodafone accelerate its network deployment and deliver new levels of innovation that can only come from an open ecosystem,” Hoffman added.

Vodafone will use PowerEdge servers from Dell’s EMC subsidiary to build the new network, focusing initially on approximately 2,500 locations in the UK selected by the telecoms giant in late 2020. The servers are built to withstand severe environmental conditions and extreme temperatures, allowing service to be delivered to even in the most hard-to-reach locations.

Francisco Martin, head of Open RAN at Vodafone, said: “Open RAN provides huge advantages for customers and communities though a diverse and open vendor ecosystem.

“Partnering with Dell Technologies gives us a platform for innovation and the ability to further extend connectivity, bringing new opportunities to industries and communities alike.”

In addition to Dell, Vodafone also plans to work with vendors such as NEC, Samsung, Capgemini Engineering, Keysight Technologies and Wind River in the establishment of the network.

Last year, head of networks at Vodafone Ireland Fiona Sheridan said that the company planned to use Ireland as a testing ground for Open RAN hardware and software. Ireland was just the second country in Europe to host trials of the network architecture.

In November, Vodafone announced it was deploying Open RAN sites at 30 hard-to-reach locations in Ireland, providing 4G connectivity.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin