Etisalat claimed to have become the first operator in the MENA region to launch an open virtual RAN, with plans to extend the deployment across its home UAE market.

The company said in a statement it partnered with technology vendors including Altiostar, NEC and Cisco to achieve the feat, which sees Etisalat take steps to transform its hardware network to a software-based one.

Etisalat uses Ericsson and Huawei hardware in its current mobile network.

It explained the virtualised approach decouples the programmable RAN software elements from the hardware, allowing generally available hardware and server platforms to process RAN software.

The ultimate aim of deploying virtual RAN is to allow for more flexibility, scalability and energy efficient networks, as well as reducing time to market, as a software-based approach is quicker to deploy than traditional methods (whereby one single infrastructure company such as Ericsson, Nokia or Huawei provide all the hardware kit).

Etisalat’s move follows Vodafone Group, MTN Group and Sprint, which all outlined plans around OpenRAN technology in 2019, as traction around the technology grows.