Vodafone Group strengthened its open RAN efforts with plans to deliver the first commercial network in the Republic of Ireland (RoI) based on the technology.

Following a recent trial in North Kildare with vendor Parallel Wireless, the operator said open RAN kit will be “rolled out across the North West region”, delivering “new 4G service coverage to 30 locations in a faster and more cost efficient way”.

The network aims to serve remote areas in Ireland and follows a Vodafone commitment to use emerging open RAN technology for at least 2,600 sites in the UK.

In a statement, Vodafone claimed it is “the largest confirmed promise made by a European carrier to embrace technology companies from outside the established supply chain”.

Industry gossip suggests Ericsson kit could be replaced in the Irish deployment: Huawei is likely to be the victim in Vodafone’s wider UK open RAN deployment.

Vodafone Ireland CTO Didier Clavero said the move to open RAN “is a pivotal moment in the provision of mobile coverage to rural communities in Ireland, as this pioneering new approach reduces cost, increases flexibility and enables new suppliers to support the expansion of Vodafone’s mobile network in hard to reach areas”.

“Focusing on the North West region to begin with, we will continue to identify communities across Ireland where we can more economically introduce access to voice and high-speed data using the new technology.”

A Parallel Wireless representative told Mobile World Live urban areas will be served by the network in time.

Broader push
In August Vodafone lit its first 4G open RAN site in the UK, at the Royal Welsh Showground events venue, using equipment from vendor Mavenir. Vodafone has also trialled open RAN networks in Turkey, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The approach is touted as a way for operators to unlock the door to more suppliers of network technology, instead of being reliant on heavily customised hardware available from only a few vendors. Proponents of open RAN argue it allows one supplier’s software to be integrated within another’s radio and server hardware, which was not previously possible.

“By shifting networks to virtualised open RAN, quality coverage can be delivered to many new subscribers at much lower cost with faster time-to-market,” Parallel Wireless’ COO Keith Johnson argued in the statement.