Vodafone partners Nokia to boost OpenRAN

Vodafone and Nokia are expanding their partnership to run a 5G OpenRAN commercial pilot in Italy. While Nokia has been a long-term supplier across the Vodafone Group for many years, this is their first OpenRAN trial to take place on a live Vodafone network.

The two companies will also work alongside RedHat, Dell and Marvell on the pilot, while demonstrating how OpenRAN can provide opportunities for new suppliers in the Vodafone business. 

This is a display of confidence in the OpenRAN ecosystem by both companies, with Nokia — a vendor of traditional Radio Access Network equipment — making a material commitment to the ecosystem.

OpenRAN is a new way of building mobile networks. Instead of using a single vendor for an entire site, OpenRAN creates interoperability rules for vendors to follow. Being compliant to these rules enables telcos like Vodafone to mix and match components from different vendors. Not only does this increase competition in the market, it also allows Vodafone to bring in specialist suppliers for specific parts of a mobile site.

As part of the commercial pilot: 

  • Vodafone will manage the integration of the different vendors.
  • Nokia will supply the radio components, as well as the software to manage the site. 
  • RedHat will provide the cloud application platform which will be hosted on Dell PowerEdge XR8000 servers.
  • Dell PowerEdge servers will support a Smart Network Interface Card (NIC) for Layer 1 processing, developed by Nokia in cooperation with Marvell.

The containerised cloud platform provided by RedHat (known as OpenShift) is an important component of the site, as this will allow other suppliers to incorporate their own software, bringing additional features and functionality to the site. This, combined with the OpenRAN interoperability rules, will enable the blend of different suppliers on the same site.

Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, said: “OpenRAN is an ecosystem which is rapidly gathering momentum and our work in the UK shows why – there are so many benefits from the technological through to an internal cultural transformation. With more companies actively participating in the ecosystem development, we look forward to even more interesting ideas emerging.”

Mark Atkinson, Head of Radio Access Networks at Nokia, said: “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.”