In a historic move, telecommunications giant Vodafone and leading technology provider Nokia have unveiled plans for a pioneering commercial 5G Open Radio Access Network (RAN) pilot in Italy, marking a significant step towards enhancing the region’s digital capabilities.
This initiative brings together Nokia’s expertise as one of the world’s largest RAN providers and Vodafone’s expansive pan-European network.
The collaboration aims to create a platform that encourages the involvement of independent software providers, start-ups, and local companies by utilizing open APIs, ultimately promoting competition and innovation. This strategic move is set to elevate Europe’s competitiveness and ensure a more resilient supply chain, essential for achieving greater digital autonomy.
The pilot project, covering a cluster of sites in northern Italy, will involve Nokia’s containerized baseband software running on Red Hat OpenShift, a leading hybrid cloud application platform powered by Kubernetes, hosted on Dell PowerEdge XR8000 servers, the latest in server technology. Specifically designed for Open RAN and mobile edge computing workloads, these servers will support a Smart Network Interface Card (NIC) for Layer 1 processing developed by Nokia in collaboration with Marvell.
The primary goal of this collaboration is to demonstrate that Nokia’s Open RAN solution can achieve functionality and performance parity compared to its purpose-built RAN. The deployment will also include the validation of Open RAN compliant Open Fronthaul interfaces, which include antennas and the baseband unit.
Alberto Ripepi, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone, emphasized the company’s dedication to supporting the EU digital economy and fostering a new developer ecosystem through the deployment of customer-focused Open RAN networks. This live software-based open network will serve as a launching pad for innovative products and services, enhancing the overall customer experience.
Mark Atkinson, Head of Radio Access Networks at Nokia, highlighted Nokia’s collaborative approach, enabling Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to deploy Cloud RAN with the server hardware and CaaS layer of their choice. The partnership between Nokia and its ecosystem partners is committed to providing customers with a higher performance and more choice in Open RAN solutions compared to other RAN suppliers.
The 5G Open RAN pilot in Italy marks a significant milestone and aligns with Vodafone’s strategy to deploy Open RAN extensively across Europe, aiming for 30 percent of its masts to be based on this technology by 2030.
Recent announcements of deploying 2500 Open RAN sites in the UK further underline Vodafone’s commitment to leading the charge in adopting innovative developments and embracing Open RAN as the technology of choice.
The collective efforts of Vodafone and Nokia promise to drive the wider adoption of disaggregated and automated solutions, enhancing the agility to rapidly adopt cutting-edge advancements in the telecommunications industry.