Orange and Vodafone plan Open RAN network sharing in Europe

Orange and Vodafone have agreed to build an Open Radio Access Network (RAN) with RAN sharing in rural parts of Europe.
Verizon 5G cell site
This is the first time that two telecom operators have agreed to share Open RAN networks in Europe.

Orange and Vodafone will build Open RAN sites this year in a rural area of Romania, near Bucharest.  They will provide an initial real-life experience of this new operational model based on the integration of multi-vendor hardware and software.

Orange and Vodafone are currently working to individually select strategic vendors for this initial build phase.

The companies’ commitment to Open RAN also supports the European Commission’s ambitious target to have 5G in all populated areas by 2030.

Open RAN unlocks significant advantages over traditional network sharing. By using open and virtualised RAN, relying on disaggregated software and hardware, Vodafone and Orange will have greater flexibility when adding new radio sites or upgrading existing ones, while keeping the cost and energy consumption low.

“It is a major step towards agile and fully-automated networks, unleashing the potential of virtualization and AI to boost performance while driving both infrastructure and operational costs down,” Michael Trabbia, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Orange, said.

“By combining resources, we will reduce the cost of hardware, minimise fuel consumption and the need for duplicate sites whilst eradicating coverage not-spots,” said Alberto Ripepi, Chief Network Officer of Vodafone.

Under existing sharing agreements one operator is responsible for all the component parts of a shared site, with both operators using the same RAN vendor or software release, and life cycle management.

Testing of the Open RAN solution on a live network will continue throughout 2023, allowing a like-for-like comparison with legacy networks and will aim at confirming the feature and performance parity between Open RAN and traditional RAN solutions, before expanding the Open RAN sharing blueprint to other markets.