Vodafone has switched on the UK’s first 5G OpenRAN site this morning in Bath, marking the first of the 2,500 5G and 4G OpenRAN sites.
Last month, the UK Government and telecoms operators announced shared ambitions to expand support for the OpenRAN ecosystem.
Vodafone has championed the OpenRAN ecosystem since its conception in 2016 and is actively using OpenRAN across many parts of the UK.
To celebrate the deployment of the site, the first 5G video call over OpenRAN infrastructure was made by Vodafone UK’s Chief Network Officer Andrea Dona to the Minister for Digital Infrastructure Julia Lopez on 11 January.
Julia Lopez, Digital Infrastructure Minister, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “This phone call, the first in the UK to be made using 5G OpenRAN infrastructure, marks a big step forward for innovation in UK telecoms. OpenRAN will have an important role to play in the future of our mobile networks and I congratulate Vodafone for being the first to make it happen.”
“The government is investing in the technology through our £250 million diversification strategy so we can deliver the amazing benefits of 5G for people and businesses with more diverse, resilient and secure equipment in our networks.”
The installation marks a number of firsts, including the beginning of the first scaled OpenRAN project in Europe, with 2,500 sites committed by 2027, as well as the first time OpenRAN technology has been deployed on a UK macro site to carry live customer traffic.
Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, said: “This is the beginning of a new chapter for the mobile industry. Our team has been working tirelessly to take OpenRAN technology from a theory in our lab to our customers in the real-world – it’s remarkable how much has been achieved in such a short period of time.”
“OpenRAN as a concept is only five years old, and we’re already fundamentally changing how we deploy connectivity infrastructure. This is a watershed moment in the telecoms industry, and a catalyst for change and evolution.”
OpenRAN technology separates software from hardware, meaning more flexibility for mobile operators. Where previously one vendor would have delivered the whole solution, OpenRAN enables telecoms operators to work with more specialist suppliers.
Not only will this diversify the telecoms supply chain, adding resilience to Critical National Infrastructure, it will also act as a catalyst for innovation. This could result in more energy efficient telecoms equipment, as well as increasing the speed at which mobile operators can deploy next generation networks.
The technology is widely seen as a disruptor for the telecommunications industry.