Vodafone Ireland deploys open RAN tech at 30 sites

Vodafone Ireland is rolling out open radio access network (RAN) sites across northwestern Ireland to deliver new 4G service to 30 locations.

The sites are being built on an open RAN architecture with a remote radio unit (RRU) provided by Comba Telecom and a virtual baseband unit from Supermicro, running Parallel Wireless distributed unit (DU) and central unit (CU) software.

The DU/CU software connects to Parallel Wireless’ Intelligent Controller, located in a Dublin data center on HP hardware using VMware virtualization software.

Vodafone Ireland plans to focus on the rural northwest region of the country to begin with and continue to identify more communities across Ireland to use the open RAN technology.

Didier Clavero, CTO of Vodafone Ireland, said in a statement, “Delivering open RAN sites is a pivotal moment in the provision of mobile coverage to rural communities in Ireland, as this pioneering new approach reduces cost, increases flexibility and enables new suppliers to support the expansion of Vodafone’s mobile network in hard-to-reach areas."

A Parallel Wireless spokesperson said that Ireland will eventually have open RAN technology at a mix of rural and urban areas.

The news follows a deployment Vodafone conducted in August with Mavenir in which the two turned on a live open RAN 4G site in the U.K. at the Royal Welsh Showground in Powys, Wales.

Vodafone said it will also trial the use of system integrators along with its open RAN deployments to further improve product automation and zero-touch provisioning.

Vodafone leads on open RAN

Vodafone, which is the second largest mobile operator in the world, has been a leading proponent of open RAN. It recently required its vendors to support O-RAN split option 7.2 to ensure interoperability. The Vodafone Ireland news this week follows a commitment from Vodafone Group to use open RAN technology for at least 2,600 sites in the U.K. The service provider is using the open RAN the technology, at least in part, to replace Huawei equipment, which has been banned by the U.K. government.

Vodafone has made some of its open RAN announcements at the last couple of Telecom Infra Project (TIP) conferences.

In November 2019, Vodafone’s head of network strategy and architecture Santiago Tenorio said that Vodafone would issue a request for quotes (RFQ) for open RAN technology for its entire European footprint, comprising more than 100,000 sites.

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And at the TIP conference in October 2020, Tenorio announced the results of an RFI for open RAN radio hardware. He named the frontrunners in the RFI, which included some familiar companies such as Fujitsu, Mavenir and Airspan. But there were also some not-so-familiar names including Baicells, Comba and NTS.

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Vodafone’s commitment to open RAN is the largest of any European carrier. 

For its part, Parallel Wireless is also leading in open RAN. A lot of its focus has been in emerging markets where it stresses the ability of its software to work in brownfield environments with existing 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies.

“We are the only open RAN vendor that can do handoffs to other vendors’ RAN,” said the Parallel spokesperson. “Mobile Network Operators now have started to replace legacy providers’ macros with Parallel Wireless All G compliant O-RAN solution.”