Orange and Vodafone have reached an agreement to create an Open Radio Access Network (RAN) with RAN sharing in rural areas of Europe where they both have mobile networks. This marks the first time that two companies have agreed to share Open RAN networks in Europe. The companies plan to deploy the first commercial sites in a rural area of Romania near Bucharest, providing a real-life experience of this new operational model based on the integration of multi-vendor hardware and software. This will pave the way for wider scale deployments.
Orange and Vodafone are working individually to select strategic vendors for the initial build phase. The agreement is in line with the European Commission’s ambition to have 5G in all populated areas by 2030. Open RAN unlocks significant advantages over traditional network sharing. The use of open and virtualised RAN, relying on disaggregated software and hardware, will allow Orange and Vodafone greater flexibility when adding new radio sites or upgrading existing ones while keeping the cost and energy consumption low. The Open RAN model will serve as a blueprint to extend 4G and 5G networks to rural communities across Europe.
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Michaël Trabbia, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Orange, said: “Orange is excited to cooperate with Vodafone on a first open RAN sharing deployment in Romania, which is a significant milestone on the road to wide-scale open RAN adoption across Europe. 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.”
Alberto Ripepi, Chief Network Officer of Vodafone, added: “We are delighted to be working with Orange on this industry-first initiative. By combining resources, we will reduce the cost of hardware, minimise fuel consumption and the need for duplicate sites whilst eradicating coverage not-spots. Open RAN also means we can more quickly add new software features without necessarily replacing the hardware components, which is often the case today. This minimises any disruption to service and ensures customers in rural areas receive the same upgrades as those in the cities.”