Vodafone and Nokia have announced the decision to strengthen their partnership with plans to run a commercial 5G Open Radio Access Network (RAN) pilot in Italy for the first time.
Bringing together Nokia, one of the world’s largest RAN providers, and Vodafone’s unrivalled pan-European network, will provide a platform for more independent software providers, start-ups, and local companies to enter the fray using open APIs. This will encourage competition and innovation, boosting Europe’s competitiveness and giving it greater digital autonomy underpinned by a more resilient supply chain.
Covering a cluster of sites in northern Italy, the pilot will involve Nokia containerised baseband software running on Red Hat OpenShift, an industry leading hybrid cloud application platform powered by Kubernetes, hosted on the latest generation Dell PowerEdge XR8000 servers. Designed for Open RAN and mobile edge computing workloads, the Dell PowerEdge servers will support a Smart Network Interface Card (NIC) for Layer 1 processing developed by Nokia in cooperation with Marvell.
The collaboration’s clear goal is to prove that Nokia’s Open RAN solution achieves functionality and performance parity compared to its purpose-built RAN. The deployment will include the validation of Open RAN compliant Open Fronthaul interfaces (which includes antennas and the baseband unit).
Alberto Ripepi, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone, said “today’s announcement reinforces Vodafone’s commitment to supporting the EU digital economy with the deployment of customer-focussed Open RAN networks. Through greater collaboration, Vodafone and Nokia will also foster a new developer ecosystem in our home markets by providing a live software-based open network on which to launch innovative products and services for our customers.”
“Nokia’s collaborative anyRAN approach means that Communication Service Providers (CSPs) can deploy Cloud RAN with the server hardware and CaaS layer of their choice. Together with our ecosystem partners, we are committed to providing more choice and a higher performance in Open RAN solutions to our customers than they will see from other RAN suppliers,” commented Mark Atkinson, Head of Radio Access Networks at Nokia.
This Open RAN deployment is the first of its kind in Italy and builds on the two companies’ vision to develop a fully automated and programmable network that can respond quickly to our customers’ needs. Vodafone and Nokia are now focussing on building open and interoperable networks to meet enterprise and consumer demand for highly responsive 5G services built on AI and extended reality.
Shlomi Moscovici, VP of Telco, Media and Entertainment, EMEA, Red Hat, said “Open RAN’s significance lies not only in providing an efficient and flexible way to deploy applications and derive value at the edge, but also in helping boost collaboration and innovation in the ecosystem. Vodafone’s 5G Open RAN pilot is a leading example of collaboration in action, and we are pleased to bring Red Hat OpenShift as an interoperable, consistent and scalable foundation for Open RAN.”
“Through our ongoing collaboration with Nokia and Red Hat, we’re providing an open infrastructure platform to Vodafone that enables network innovation and new service delivery,” said Dennis Hoffman, senior vice president and general manager, Telecom Systems Business, Dell Technologies.
“Marvell is pleased to collaborate with Nokia and the broader Cloud-RAN ecosystem to deliver scalable wireless RAN baseband silicon solutions for the emerging AI-era. Cloud-optimised silicon is critical to delivering scalable system performance with efficient power and cost as cloud and RAN technologies converge to provide feature and performance parity to traditional RAN solutions,” said Will Chu, senior VP and GM, Compute & Custom Business Unit, Marvell
This is another step in Vodafone’s strategy to widely deploy Open RAN across Europe, with the aim of having 30% of its masts based on the technology by 2030. It builds on Vodafone’s recent announcement to deploy 2500 Open RAN sites in the UK, the first large scale deployment in Europe. Collectively, they will lead to the wider adoption of disaggregated and automated solutions, and the agility to quickly adopt innovative developments, with Open RAN as the technology of choice.