Vodafone has reported progress with its urban open RAN trials, which began in the UK in late 2022. The operator added it is on track for its open RAN request for quotation (RFQ) process to begin in 2024. Bell Canada is also conducting open RAN trials. As part of this, it will test universal spectrum multiplier (USM) software developed by Cohere Technologies. Bell recently announced it will take a stake in Cohere, following Telstra’s investment in the software vendor in 2015.
Interest in open RAN remains high among operators, but deployments have generally been slow to materialise and mostly limited to suburban or rural areas. For open RAN to move to the mainstream, it will need to be deployed in areas with more stringent performance requirements, hence the importance of Vodafone’s open RAN progress in the UK. Yet, as trials and deployments move forward, it is increasingly clear that open RAN is not necessarily less expensive than competing solutions. Integrating innovations such as Cohere’s USM software, which aims to boost spectrum performance, can help drive open RAN forward while also creating a more diverse vendor ecosystem.