Vodafone pilots 5G Open RAN at German cell sites

The operator hopes to equip 30% of all its European sites with Open RAN by 2030

Following successful field tests earlier this year in Plauen, Germany, Vodafone has announced a 5G Open Radio Access Network (RAN) pilot at mobile sites across the German states of South East Bavaria and North East Lower Saxony.

The pilot launches, which are slated to begin early next year, are the first of their kind in Germany, according to Vodafone. “This will be the first Open RAN system in Germany that not only uses open interfaces but is built on both hardware and software from multiple vendors that is fully interchangeable and interoperable based on the choice of the operator,” said Santiago Tenorio, director of network architecture at Vodafone.

The deployment, the carrier says, will also the first in the country to be fully compliant with the specifications outlined by Europe’s Open RAN MoU group. The software and radio equipment for the pilot was provided by Samsung.

 “[Open RAN] brings timely resilience to the supply chain, allowing us to work with a greater number and more diverse pool of suppliers,” commented Tenorio. “Greater competition also encourages innovation, leading to a better mobile experience for our customers.”

In addition to adding much-needed diversity to the supply chain and increasing innovation, Vodafone has demonstrated that Open RAN can also cut down on energy consumption when the right techniques are used. This summer, Vodafone — and several industry partners — demonstrated energy saving techniques for Open RAN systems, derived from tests that took place under laboratory conditions at the University of Utah’s POWDER Lab. The tests showed a nine to 12 percent energy reduction.

“We plan to exceed the energy efficiency of today’s mobile networks. To achieve this, we need a standardized approach to evaluating, testing, measuring, and monitoring energy consumption of dis-aggregated multi-vendor Open RAN,” Vodafone Open RAN Senior Engineer Nikoleta Patroni said at the time. “This will provide a greater degree of transparency and help accelerate the acceptance of Open RAN technology for larger-scaled commercial deployments.”

Vodafone plans to expand its Open RAN rollout in Germany over the next few years, and more broadly, aims to equip 30% of all its European sites with the technology by 2030.

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