Vodafone Strengthens Commitment to Open RAN with Intel Partnership for Open RAN Chips

Vodafone, a major European mobile operator, reaffirmed its dedication to Open RAN networks by announcing its collaboration with Intel to develop purpose-built chipset architecture for this technology.
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The company also disclosed its first successful 4G calls using Open RAN technology, executed over network sites shared with Orange in Romania. Moreover, Vodafone is partnering with Nokia to initiate Open RAN trials in Italy.

Open RAN (Open Radio Access Network) presents the opportunity for mobile operators to integrate equipment from various suppliers, potentially enhancing flexibility within the network architecture. Despite the potential benefits, progress in Open RAN adoption has been gradual, with the market primarily dominated by proprietary solutions from Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei, the latter facing restrictions in several countries.

In a significant move towards advancing Open RAN capabilities, Vodafone and Intel joined forces in 2022 to explore the development of their chipset architecture.

Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone’s director of network architecture, confirmed that the collaborative efforts would materialize into chipsets created at Vodafone’s campus in Malaga, Spain. These chipsets will be accessible to smaller third-party vendors, allowing them to test their algorithms with minimal financial investment in silicon, Reuters news report said.

According to Tenorio, this approach significantly accelerates innovation delivery by enabling the production of silicon designs in testing sample quantities, ultimately expediting the mass production of crucial chips for the industry. He emphasized, “Combining Vodafone’s networking expertise with Intel’s strength in silicon architecture design will enable rapid prototyping, verification and testing, eventually leading to a faster mass production of the chips the industry needs to accelerate.”

Moreover, Vodafone and Orange celebrated a milestone by successfully completing 4G calls over Open RAN technology. The joint effort utilized hardware and software provided by Samsung, Wind River, and Dell in a pilot conducted in a rural area near Bucharest, Romania.

In a parallel initiative, Vodafone and Nokia are collaborating on a pilot in Italy to demonstrate that Nokia’s Open RAN solution can match the functionality and performance of purpose-built RAN, highlighting the adoption of Open RAN technologies in the telecommunications landscape.