Etisalat teamed with Parallel Wireless, Intel and Supermicro to deploy open RAN systems on its network in Afghanistan, in what was claimed to be a first for central Asia as the approach continues to gain traction globally.

In a statement, open RAN specialist Parallel Wireless explained it was working with Etisalat and the other partners on a trial designed to deliver cost-effective rural and urban coverage to the country.

Parallel Wireless will provide open RAN remote radio units (RRUs) to replace Etisalat’s legacy 2G, 3G and 4G systems. It is also to supply “white box” solutions which can be upgraded to 5G in the future.

Intel’s processors will be used in Supermicro’s servers to enable a “future-ready architecture” for distributed and centralised units deployed at the network’s edge.

GSMA Intelligence Q1 estimates placed Etisalat as the second-largest operator in Afghanistan with 7.39 million mobile connections, just behind Roshan (7.42 million).

Etisalat is no stranger to open RAN technology, having carried out numerous trials since early 2020.

Parallel Wireless argued solutions based on the approach were “now ready for prime time”, with deployments in six continents.

It recently struck a deal to supply open RAN in Nigeria, as well as partnering with the Telecom Infra Project in Indonesia.

Hatem Bamatraf, CTO International at Etisalat Group, said the combination of open RAN, virtualisation and automation would enable the operator to meet its customers’ needs “most cost-effectively” in central Asia.

“Being able to use an open RAN system will help us not only extend our initial investment, but also bring new services much faster,” he said.