Vodafone today unveiled its strategic O-RAN vendors – Dell, NEC, Samsung Electronics, Wind River, Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies.
Vodafone’s initial focus will be on the 2,500 sites in the UK that it committed to Open RAN in October 2020.
It is one of the largest deployments in the world and will be built jointly with Dell, NEC, Samsung and Wind River. Vodafone also expects to use new radio equipment defined under the Evenstar programme, a joint initiative it contributes to.
Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies are providing support to ensure interoperability between all the components.
Starting this year, the vendors will work with Vodafone to extend 4G and 5G coverage to more rural places across the South West of England and most of Wales, moving into urban areas in a later phase.
Samsung will be a reference RAN software provider. Samsung and NEC will supply Massive MIMO – a method to boost capacity of a mobile antenna – along with Samsung and Evenstar radio units, which establish a signal between users’ smartphones or devices and the mobile mast.
Evenstar radios are part of a joint effort between Facebook and Vodafone to create ‘white-box’ radio units within the Telecom Infra Project (TIP). These will provide vendors with detailed specifications needed to develop compatible radio units much more cheaply, and are designed to encourage new players to the market to boost the ecosystem and stimulate innovation.
The initial deployments will be implemented using COTS (common off the shelf) Dell EMC PowerEdge servers to support the combined DU/CU function running Containers as a Service (CaaS) software from Wind River Studio, which will provide a distributed cloud-native platform hosting the Open RAN applications and virtualised RAN from Samsung. This gives Vodafone the benefit of being able to mix and match and install new software releases and upgrades more easily.
Keysight Technologies will deliver its comprehensive Open RAN test solution portfolio designed to support conformance, interoperability and E2E system testing. Capgemini Engineering will be the key partner within our lab testing to ensure interworking of the Open RAN multi-vendor ecosystem.
The O-RAN Alliance 7-2x split, that defines the interface between the radio antenna and the baseband unit, will be used in the deployments, following successful test and simulations that make it the option of choice. The resulting Open RAN network is expected to improve energy efficiency compared to the existing solution from traditional widely deployed RAN products.