Vodafone and Samsung deploy commercial open RAN in Romania

Vodafone took a further step on its open radio access network (RAN) journey with the announcement that it has started the commercial rollout of open RAN technology in 20 cities across Romania. 

The U.K.-based group is again working with partner Samsung on its latest open RAN project. The South Korean vendor is responsible for supplying 2G, 4G and 5G radio and baseband units, while Dell Technologies is providing Dell PowerEdge servers and Wind River the containers-as-a-service (CaaS) or abstraction layer software.

Samsung said it will provide its vRAN solutions supporting multi radio access technology (RAT), automation solutions and Open RAN-compliant triple-band radios (700MHz, 800MHZ and 900MHz) as well as 5G massive MIMO radios. 

Woojune Kim, president and head of networks business at Samsung Electronics, said the rollout in Romania marks a “significant milestone” in its open RAN collaboration with Vodafone.

Vodafone and Samsung, together with AMD, also recently demonstrated their first end-to-end data call using AMD’s new general-purpose processor on an open RAN platform. 

Indeed, the vendor is seeing a strengthening role in open RAN in general. According to a survey carried out by Recon Analytics, when respondents were asked which vendors have the best overall RAN portfolio, they named Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia, in that order.

Building momentum

The rollout follows tests that Vodafone started with Samsung and other partners last year in Romania. For example, Vodafone Romania and Orange Romania conducted a pilot to test 4G calls over a shared network based on open RAN technology, again with support from Dell, Samsung and Wind River.

Vodafone also pointed to other European trials, which includes its 5G open RAN pilot in Italy with Nokia, and its flagship commercial rollout of open RAN to 2,500 sites in the UK, which started in August 2023 in collaboration with Samsung. The operator aims to equip 30% of all its European sites with open RAN by 2030.

In addition, Vodafone Group chief executive Margherita Della Valle recently confirmed that the operator has kicked off its previously announced request for quotes for open RAN technology across its entire global footprint of 170,000 sites, of which more than 100,000 are in Europe.

She also revealed that United Arab Emirates-based e&, which now owns 14.6% of Vodafone, will participate in the procurement exercise as part of the duo’s strategic alliance formed in May 2023.

Alberto Ripepi, group chief network officer at Vodafone, claimed that the momentum behind open RAN is building, citing the need to support new technologies like generative AI as they become “embedded within businesses, factories, and every day online interactions.”

Vodafone Group head of open RAN Francisco Martin Pignatelli has already stressed that open RAN is “a lot about collaboration,” and said large telecom groups such as Vodafone have “both the responsibility and the opportunity” to help smaller operators “get on to the open RAN journey.”

Also worth noting is that Vodafone has said it is working with both ARM on the development of new open RAN platforms and Intel on semiconductor development at its R&D centre in Málaga, Spain. 

Meanwhile, latest projections from the Dell’Oro group say open RAN is set to account for 20% to 30% of worldwide RAN revenues by 2028, up from 7% to 10% in 2024.

Notably, the group asserts that that single-vendor open RAN, not multi-vendor open RAN, will dominate technology sales, at least initially.