Vodafone tender includes 14 countries, `100,000 wireless infrastructure sites

Vodafone has tested open RAN technologies in parts of Turkey and South Africa and, in October, began testing the radio access network equipment in the United Kingdom. And, in a presentation this week at the Telecom Infra Project Summit in Amsterdam, Voda’s Head of Network Strategy and Architecture Yago Tenorio said the operator would initiate a tender covering its entire European footprint, according to reports.

“Right now this is the biggest tender in this industry in the world,” Tenorio said, according to Mobile World Live. “It’s a really big opportunity for OpenRAN to scale. We are ready to swap out sites if we have to. Our ambition is to have modern, up to date, lower-cost kit in every site.”

In addition to the work being done in Europe, Vodafone is also trialing open RAN in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.

Tenorio’s comments come following an Oct. 7 statement from Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read who said the operator is “ready to fast track” open RAN in Europe “as we actively expand our vendor ecosystem. OpenRAN improves the network economics enabling us to reach more people in rural communities and that supports our goal to build digital societies in which no one is left behind.”

There’s a distinction between open RAN and OpenRAN that’s worth noting. The former refers broadly to the idea of developing open interfaces and inoperability to build multi-vendor RAN sites using commodity hardware. OpenRAN is a specific TIP project that contemplates the same goal covering 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. TIP describes OpenRAN as focused “on developing a vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology based on open interfaces and community-developed standards. Unlike traditional RAN, OpenRAN decouples hardware and software. This gives operators more flexibility as they deploy and upgrade their network architecture in various deployment scenarios and geographies.”

On the spec side, the O-RAN Alliance, a combination of the former XRAN Forum and C-RAN Alliance, is an operator-led group that develops actual specifications for things like open fronthaul, RAN controllers and so forth

In addition to the network economics angle, the whole open RAN movement is further meant to foster competition in a vendor market largely dominated by Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia. In addition to creating an environment where specialists can focus in on particular sections of the radio access network, competition has a direct line to more favorable pricing for operators.

“We will put all our footprint in Europe to tender,” Tenorio said, according to The Mobile Network.  “100,000 cells and all technologies from 2G to 5G are to tender. We have invited incumbents and also open RAN suppliers. There have been bigger RFPs like we saw in China, and there will be bigger in the future, but right now this is the biggest tender there is in this industry in the world.”



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