Vodafone and Orange Successfully Conduct Pilot for 4G Calls Using Open RAN Technology

Vodafone and Orange, two prominent telecom companies, has announced a successful pilot in Romania where 4G calls were made over a cluster of shared commercial network sites. This groundbreaking achievement utilized Open RAN (Open Radio Access Network) technology, showcasing the potential for enhanced connectivity solutions in rural regions near Bucharest.
Ericsson mobile phone userThe pilot follows the collaborative commitment made by Vodafone and Orange in February of this year to build an Open RAN with RAN sharing in rural parts of Europe.

The innovative Open RAN technology decouples software and hardware functionalities, enabling mobile base stations to be remotely upgraded with new features and services in a cost-effective manner, minimizing the need for physical site visits through network automation. Moreover, it allows operators to operate their own virtualized RAN software on a common cloud infrastructure, enhancing operator autonomy while sharing network costs.

In this successful pilot, both companies demonstrated the benefits of a virtualized radio access network based on Open RAN standardized interfaces. The collaboration involved the integration of key vendor partners and the use of a Samsung commercial virtualized RAN solution, Wind River abstraction layer, and Dell PowerEdge servers. The experience gained from previous Open RAN deployments and integration tests facilitated the utilization of the same stack on the shared sites.

Following the triumph of 4G calls over shared Open RAN sites, Vodafone and Orange are set to introduce 2G, already successfully tested in the lab, and subsequently 5G. This marks a significant milestone as it will be the first time 2G radio software is fully integrated within a virtualized Open RAN environment in Europe. The integration simplifies deployment, avoiding the need for more operationally complex overlay solutions.

Alberto Ripepi, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone, emphasized the model developed in collaboration with Orange as a blueprint to extend mobile networks to rural communities across Europe. The implementation of Open RAN sharing is expected to significantly reduce costs and enable the provision of differentiated services to customers.

Bruno Zerbib, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Orange, emphasized the importance of this pilot deployment, signifying that Open RAN is now mature for rollout in brownfield networks. This achievement sets the stage for wider-scale deployments across the group, paving the way towards fully automated and intelligent networks.

Open RAN technology offers substantial advantages over traditional network sharing, providing flexibility in adding or upgrading radio sites while keeping costs and energy consumption low. The commitment of Vodafone and Orange to Open RAN aligns with the European Commission’s ambitious target to have 5G coverage in all populated areas by 2030, ultimately enhancing the resilience and efficiency of mobile networks across Europe.