Vodafone has announced a raft of urban trials in the UK for its open RAN network infrastructure – a sign of continued momentum in the technology and its expansion beyond rural use. Vodafone is one of the leading companies in this space; it has committed to eventual open RAN deployment across 20% of its UK footprint and awarded its most recent pan-European network tender to a consortium of non-traditional, open source equipment vendors.
The shift towards open RAN and open architecture mobile networks is gaining momentum, in part to help with spur supply chain diversification in an uncertain world. For this reason, a number of operators have supported its advancement. However, open RAN is likely to play out as a phased process. While it remains relatively small compared to the existing range of mobile networks, GSMA Intelligence survey data indicates 5G will be a major catalyst, with 75% of operators likely to use 5G as the entry point for introducing open networking – including open RAN – into their networks. Recent activities from AT&T and Verizon in the US, as well as other groups in Europe and Africa, support this outlook.