Together with various chip designers such as Intel and Arm, the British operator Vodafone will intensely focus on OpenRAN in the coming years. This makes it less dependent on large suppliers such as Ericsson and Nokia.
Vodafone opens a research centre in Malaga on IoT, Mobile Private Networks and OpenRAN. It concerns an investment of 255 million euros over the next five years. More than 600 people will work there. In addition, according to Reuters, there will be 50 software developers working specifically around OpenRAN. Vodafone does this in collaboration with Intel, Arm, Broadcom, and Lime Microsystems.
OpenRAN is a trend that mobile players have watched for several years, but the ecosystem is still far from mature. Nevertheless, it provides an answer to the dominant position of the significant telecom suppliers such as Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei or ZTE.
Today, anyone who wants to roll out or renew a mobile network on a large scale often opts for the best conditions for a single player that supplies both the software and the hardware, specifically the Radio Access Network (RAN). This makes it difficult for small players, often specialized in specific segments of a telecom network, to find work.
In OpenRAN, that modem is knocked over, and the end goal is that software and hardware have interoperability. It allows a mobile operator to do much more puzzles with parts instead of concluding a multimillion-dollar contract with one player. Those players in Europe today only consist of Ericsson and Huawei.
Vodafone has been betting on OpenRAN for some time and brought its first sites (cell towers) live on OpenRAN earlier this month. In the British Bath (Somerset), it offers 5G. The ambition is to have about 2,5,000 sies active by 2027.