Vodafone Ireland to switch on 4G sites in 30 hard-to-reach locations

19 Nov 2020

Image: © Alexey Novikov/Stock.adobe.com

Vodafone will be the first operator in Ireland to switch on ‘O-RAN’ sites to expand 4G connectivity to hard-to-reach locations.

Vodafone Ireland said the deployment of its open radio access network (O-RAN) in 30 sites across the country will boost connectivity for some of the most rural regions in the country. As part of a partnership with US tech provider, Parallel Wireless, the O-RAN sites are being trialled in Kildare before being rolled out across the north-west region.

In a traditional RAN, both the hardware and software elements are products from the same vendor and work closely in tandem with each other. However, the new O-RAN system allows telecommunications operators to deploy their own software on generic hardware.

This allows for a supplier’s software to be integrated with another supplier’s radio and server hardware, which was not previously possible. Vodafone said that this means smaller vendors can now increase the supply of radio network access equipment and software by avoiding vendor lock-in.

‘A pivotal moment’

The telecoms firm said that it is also pioneering the use of system integrators to improve product automation for testing and operational performance of O-RAN. The news comes as Vodafone confirmed the use of O-RAN technology in at least 2,600 sites in the UK.

“Delivering O-RAN sites is a pivotal moment in the provision of mobile coverage to rural communities in Ireland, as this pioneering new approach reduces cost, increases flexibility and enables new suppliers to support the expansion of Vodafone’s mobile network in hard-to-reach areas,” said Vodafone Ireland CTO, Didier Clavero.

“Focusing on the north-west region to begin with, we will continue to identify communities across Ireland where we can more economically introduce access to voice and high-speed data using the new technology.”

Keith Johnson, COO of Parallel Wireless, added: “Through their ongoing innovation, Vodafone has gained a first-hand understanding of how open and software-defined RAN can simplify deployments while reducing total cost of ownership.

“This has served as the foundation of our ongoing partnership and has allowed us to make great strides around the deployments of O-RAN globally.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic