Vodafone UK continued its ambitions to pioneer efforts in open RAN, detailing plans to open what it claimed will be the nation’s first R&D facility devoted to the approach.

The operator’s OpenRAN Test and Validation Lab will be based in its Newbury campus and will initially employ 30 engineers, though Vodafone noted this number could grow as more partners come on board.

Chief network officer Andrea Dona said the company wants to spur the development of open RAN which was “still in its infancy”.

He added Vodafone aimed to avoid “a Catch-22 situation, where operators wait to buy perfect products, but the open RAN vendors need investment to perfect their products”.

Dona emphasised benefits from open RAN around innovation, competition and reducing carbon emissions can only be unlocked when the ecosystem is supported.

The operator noted the facility would also boost “the role that the UK plays in the development of this important new technology”, a fact not lost on Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman, who said the move placed the UK “at the forefront of the telecoms revolution, creating new jobs and opportunities”.

In 2020, Vodafone claimed to be the first operator in the country to build a live open RAN 4G site. It also detailed plans to employ the approach in replacing Huawei equipment at 2,600 sites in the country, and made a seperate commitment in the Republic of Ireland.

It is building its strategy around identifying communities where it could use open RAN to economically introduce voice and high-speed data services.

Vodafone previously highlighted multiple advantages of open RAN, including improved vendor diversity from its flexible architecture and a reduced environmental impact.