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.

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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 yearIf 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.”

References:

https://newscentre.vodafone.co.uk/news/openran-in-30-percent-of-vodafone-european-network-by-2030/

https://www.vodafone.com/news/digital-society/mwc22-new-tech-order

https://newscentre.vodafone.co.uk/press-release/switches-on-first-5g-openran-site/

https://www.vodafone.com/news/corporate-and-financial/vodafone-europe-first-commercial-open-ran-network

Ericsson and Vodafone deploy new energy-efficient, light 5G radio in London

This week, Ericsson installed a new antenna-integrated radio solution (AIR 3227) on the roof of Speechmark, Vodafone UK’s central London office that, according to the telecom vendor, reduced the site’s daily network energy consumption by an average of 43% in direct comparison to previous generations of radio technology, and as much as 55% at off-peak times.

Designed for future-proof and sustainable networks, Ericsson’s new radio is 51 percent lighter than existing radio’s [1.] and its more compact design and improved energy management features will help to optimize overall site footprint, making 5G rollout and 4G upgrades faster and easier.

Note 1. The comparison is with the 64TR antenna units from Ericsson that Vodafone has been rolling out so far, which are very heavy (about 60 kilos) and less energy efficient, noted Vodafone UK’s Head of Performance and Radio, Ker Anderson, at a media briefing earlier this week.

“Vodafone is looking for ways to deploy 5G in a more energy-efficient way. When we started rolling out 5G we were using a 64-by-64 [64TR] panel from Ericsson and it’s close to 60 kilos in weight and burns electricity for fun,” noted Anderson, who added that the new AIR 3227 unit, while on paper having half the capacity of the 64TR units, “performs just as well… two years of technology evolution means we can now get the same performance from a 32-by-32 that we got with the first generation 64-by-64. Plus, they’re half the weight, and we’ve got a 43% energy reduction. So it’s been a real godsend for us for this product to come along and it’s the right thing for us to deploy – it’s cheaper, it’s faster, burns less electricity and the performance is really, really good,” Anderson said.

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1,500 of the new energy efficient Ericsson radios will be deployed across Vodafone’s network by April 2022, helping to reduce Vodafone’s forecasted energy consumption of its future 5G network and support a sustainable and responsible 5G rollout.

Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, says: “Our strategy is simple; turn off anything we don’t need, replace legacy equipment with up-to-date alternatives and use the most energy efficient options available. The success of this trial allows us to explore new ways we can more effectively manage the energy consumption of our network with our partner Ericsson. There is no silver bullet to manage our network energy consumption – it is about putting sustainability at the heart of every decision and adding up all the small gains to make a material difference.”

Björn Odenhammar, Chief Technology Officer, Networks and Managed Services, Ericsson UK and Ireland, says: “Building on the success of an award-winning 5G network in London, it is another fantastic achievement for Vodafone and Ericsson to reduce network energy consumption by a daily average of 43 percent. Sustainability is central to Ericsson’s purpose and our new radio will help Vodafone to reduce network energy consumption, simplify network rollout and efficiently manage the expected growth in data traffic of both current and future 5G networks. Together we are building the 5G network of the future – one that delivers the highest possible performance with improved resource efficiency and low environmental impacts.”

Ericsson and Vodafone UK first launched commercial 5G services in 2019. The strong working partnership was recognised for a high performing best-in-class 5G network in London in 2020. In June 2021, it was announced that Ericsson will be supporting Vodafone’s entire cloud-native 5G Core Standalone for packet core applications – a critical milestone to deliver 5G Standalone connectivity services.

The two companies have also been collaborating to reduce the environmental impact of site upgrades and speed up network deployment through the use of drones and Ericsson’s Intelligent Site Engineering service.

References:

https://www.ericsson.com/en/news/3/2021/ericsson-and-vodafone-halve-network-energy-consumption-in-breakthrough-5g-trial

https://www.telecomtv.com/content/sustainability/vodafone-uk-switches-to-fresher-air-for-its-5g-rollout-42308/

https://www.rcrwireless.com/20210903/5g/ericsson-and-vodafone-5g-trial-cuts-network-energy-consumption-in-half