Vodafone is testing new ‘OpenRAN’ technology that could potentially challenge the ‘big three’ suppliers Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia, which dominate the telecoms equipment market.
The company is holding its first European trials of its Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) in the UK. Vodafone claims the technology, which was developed in collaboration with Intel, could improve mobile cover in both urban and rural parts of the country.
OpenRAN standardises the design of hardware and software in the infrastructure, masts and antennae that make up the radio access network that carries mobile calls and data. It could potentially cut the cost of making calls and accessing data. Vodafone has already trialled the technology in laboratories in South Africa and deployed it in Turkey to deliver 2G and 4G services to customers in both urban and rural areas
One of the vendors selected to take part in the trial is UK-based Lime Microsystems, which has pioneered the idea of ‘open source’ mobile networks. It said it would launch OpenRAN in 120 rural areas in Britain on Monday and would start trials in Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo.
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The mobile RAN market has increased 10% over the past year, according to analysts at Dell’Oro. Huawei is currently in a trade war with the US, and US President Donald Trump is urging Europe to also ban the use of the Chinese firm’s equipment. US mobile networks are now seeking equipment in Europe and there is a real potential for Vodafone pry a share of the market away from Huawei.
Vodafone chief executive Nick Read said the company was ready to fast track OpenRAN into Europe as it looks to expand its list of vendors. “We are pleased with trials of OpenRAN and are ready to fast track it into Europe as we seek to actively expand our vendor ecosystem,” he said.
“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.”