OpenRAN in 30% of Vodafone European network by 2030; Europe way behind China and South Korea in 5G deployments
Vodafone will use OpenRAN technology in 30% of its masts across Europe by 2030, said Johan Wibergh, Vodafone Group Chief Technology Officer, in a speech at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2022 in Barcelona.
Around 30,000 Vodafone cell sites across Europe will eventually use OpenRAN, he said, with rural areas the first to benefit from the new 4G and 5G masts that use the more flexible radio technology.
When the roll-out reaches cities, the equipment from any existing 5G masts being replaced will then be reused elsewhere to reduce unnecessary wastage, he said.
Vodafone has been one of the key drivers behind the development and use of OpenRAN, building one of the first-ever live OpenRAN masts in Wales. This was followed by the construction of OpenRAN masts in Cornwall, as well as the UK’s first 5G OpenRAN site.
At MWC 2022, Vodafone announced new smartphone sustainability initiatives, as well as the trial of new Internet of Things technology to enable cars to pay automatically for their own refueling.
Earlier this week, Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read addressed MWC 2022 attendees in a keynote speech, highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing the mobile industry. Among them are the following:
Europe needs to be digital to remain globally competitive and maintain its leadership role in key sectors such as automotive, aerospace, defence, and agriculture. The regions that have 5G first, will be the regions that innovate fastest.
Yet, at current rates, it will take until at least the end of the decade, for Europe to match the transformational “full 5G experience” that China will already have achieved this year. If we look at 5G population coverage around the world – South Korea is over 90%, China 60%, USA 45%, and Europe under 10% – and with Africa hardly even at the starting line. Europe will only catch up if we reverse the ill-health and hyper-fragmentation of our sector. We must have local scale to close the investment gap. Otherwise, we will be the passive by-stander of the new tech order.
Local scale is needed to close the investment gap and ensure we can deploy 5G at pace. Regional scale is needed to close the digitalisation gap. The combination of local and regional scale ensures our economies and societies can enjoy the full benefits of digital innovation and industrialisation.
We have all seen the impact of global digital platforms. Platforms that change the way we conduct our daily lives. Vodafone continues to invest in regional platforms – let me just give you a few examples. In Europe we created our IoT platform which connects more than 140m devices, across 180 countries. The SIM based IoT market has tripled in the last five years, – and in the next 5 years, will hit 5bn connections. 62% of Europe’s leading automotive brands rely on Vodafone IOT. And with that scale, we are able to evolve from the “Internet of Things” to the “Economy of Things.”
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The UK government is accelerating the development of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology – which allows operators to mix and match equipment rather than relying on a single supplier when building or maintaining networks – as part of its £250 million Open Networks R&D Fund. It aims to build more secure and resilient broadband and mobile infrastructure by boosting competition and innovation within the telecoms supply chain.
This collaboration, together with other steps that the Government is taking through its Diversification Strategy, aims to meet the Government and UK mobile network operators’ joint ambition to carry 35% of the UK’s mobile network traffic over open and interoperable RAN architectures by 2030. The Government will invest through a series of competitions and challenges with funding made available until the end of March 2025. These activities will encourage greater collaboration towards addressing key barriers including power efficiency, spectrum management, software platforms, systems integration and security – ensuring that the development of innovative telecoms solutions meet the performance and security requirements of mobile network operators and other network builders.
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