Samsung & NEC selected by Vodafone for Open RAN deployment

Vodafone has selected its Open RAN vendors: Dell, Samsung, NEC, Wind River, Keysight Technologies and Capgemini Engineering will jointly develop the first Open Radio Access Network  commercial deployment in Europe.  This is important because Vodafone will now be a “brownfield” telco vs greenfield telcos like Rakuten Mobile and Dish Network that are building 4G/5G Open RANs.

Furthermore, established telecom vendors Samsung and NEC beat competition from Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless, the U.S. firms that have been involved in other open RAN deployments.

Wind River is providing the cloud software infrastructure for orchestration, while Keysight and Capgemini – the only European supplier in the mix – look after conformance and interoperability testing to make sure the set-up actually works.

The partnership will initially focus on the 2,500 UK sites that Vodafone committed to Open RAN in autumn 2020. One of the largest Open RAN deployments worldwide, this will be built in partnership with Samsung, NEC, Dell and Wind River. Vodafone will also use new radio equipment through the Evenstar program, with Keysight and Capgemini providing supports for network component interoperability.

Starting in 2021, the vendors and Vodafone will work to increase 4G/5G coverage to more rural areas across the SW of England and most of Wales, before turning to urban areas in a later stage. Vodafone is also working to deploy Open RAN technology in Africa and other markets across Europe. This announcement builds on the group’s new Open RAN lab in Newbury, UK, and planned digital skills hubs in Dresden (Germany) and Malaga (Spain).

Johan Wibergh, Vodafone Chief Technology Officer, said: “Open RAN provides huge advantages for customers. Our network will become highly programmable and automated meaning we can release new features simultaneously across multiple sites, add or direct capacity more quickly, resolve outages instantly and provide businesses with on-demand connectivity.”

“Open RAN is also reinvigorating our industry. It will boost the digital economy by stimulating greater tech innovation from a wider pool of vendors, bringing much needed diversity to the supply chain.”

“Samsung performed well on TIP evaluations they talked about a year and a half ago and so in that sense it is not a surprise,” says Gabriel Brown, a principal analyst with Heavy Reading, a sister company to Light Reading. “Samsung is taking advantage of open RAN to extend its reach.”

“This partnership represents a major breakthrough for Samsung and a strong validation for its 5G RAN portfolio,” said Richard Webb, an analyst with CCS Insight, in emailed comments. “This contract win adds to its credibility and could be a signal for other European operators to consider Samsung as an option.”

Samsung has built its open RAN software on top of Intel’s FlexRAN platform, Light Reading was able to confirm with Vodafone. Asked if that would preclude the use of Arm-based processors in future, the operator insisted open RAN’s flexibility would allow software to evolve as desired.

Heavy Reading’s Brown thinks NEC would have been a natural choice as a supplier of radio units because the Japanese market has already taken advantage of open fronthaul capability. “They have been using radios and baseband from different vendors for a long time and are world leaders in this,” he says. “NEC and Fujitsu have been working in that area for some time.”

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Vodafone Statement:

Vodafone is working with other operators to lower the entry barriers for smaller vendors and startups. Recently published Open RAN technical requirements by Vodafone and other telecommunications companies will provide a blueprint to help expedite the development of new products and services based on industry specifications from the O-RAN Alliance (of which Vodafone is a member) and eventually (????) ETSI standards (from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute), always compatible with 3GPP (which does not have ANY Open RAN projects at this time).

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References:

https://www.vodafone.com/news/press-release/vodafone-europe-first-commercial-open-ran-network

https://www.lightreading.com/open-ran/samsung-beats-euro-us-rivals-to-land-vodafone-uk-open-ran-deal/d/d-id/770173?

 

2 thoughts on “Samsung & NEC selected by Vodafone for Open RAN deployment

  1. Iain Morris of Light Reading:

    The danger of open RAN is that it substitutes a series of dependencies for reliance on a couple of giant kit vendors. So far, there seem to be limited options for each disaggregated element – Dell, HPE and Supermicro on the server side, for instance, or Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless in software. The smallest companies lack the financial strength of Ericsson and Nokia. And in the absence of Arm-based alternatives, Intel rules over baseband. A vulnerability in any part of the chain could bring the whole system crashing down.

    https://www.lightreading.com/open-ran/britains-got-open-ran-talent-hopes-clueless-govt/a/d-id/770638?

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