Vodafone UK revealed plans to deploy open RAN in 2,600 network sites by 2027, in a major commitment to using the technology to replace a large chunk of Huawei’s equipment, which it has been ordered to strip out by the government.

A Vodafone representative told Mobile World Live it would deploy open RAN technology in Wales and the southwest of England, replacing 35 per cent of “Huawei’s estate”.

The deployment is scheduled for 2022, with a procurement process due to begin in 2021.

Vodafone has notably been a major backer of open RAN, and the representative said its latest commitment to the technology was one of the biggest in the industry so far.

UK operators are all working to comply with a government ban on Huawei announced earlier this year, which requires them to strip out the vendor’s equipment from 5G networks by 2027.

Backing open RAN
Vodafone claimed a first in August when it lit a live 4G site in the UK using the technology. The move followed open RAN trials in the country, as well as the Republic of Ireland, Turkey, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In its statement announcing the live site, Vodafone emphasised open RAN unlocked the door to more suppliers of network technology, instead of being reliant on heavily customised hardware available from only a few vendors.

It partnered with alternative supplier Mavenir for the deployment.

Vodafone’s representative emphasised the deployment in the UK would be centred on rural areas, but the company was keen to push it into more dense areas and cities in the future.

Traditional vendors, including Nokia and Ericsson, have also committed to developing the technology alongside traditional offerings.