Vodafone UK revealed the vendors set to deploy what it claims as Europe’s first commercial open RAN network, with the operator counting Samsung Electronics, Dell, NEC and Wind River among its providers.

Other companies to win a slice of the Vodafone deployment were Capgemini Engineering and Keysight Technologies, which will provide interoperability systems for the equipment supplied by the other vendors.

Initially the deployment will cover 2,500 sites, as announced by the operator in October 2020 as part of its Huawei swap-out.

Vodafone stated it would be one of the largest open RAN deployments in the world and the first commercial deployment of the architecture in Europe.

The operator and its parent group have been vocal supporters of the potential of open RAN, undertaking a number of trials in various markets. Its previous partners included Parallel Wireless and Mavenir, but both players appear to have missed out on this major deal.

Vodafone’s deal marks a big milestone for Samsung. Despite having a significant network business in other parts of the world, it traditionally did not have a solid foothold in Europe with Nokia, Ericsson and latterly Huawei dominating the ecosystem.

In its own statement, head of Samsung’s networks business Paul Kyungwhoon Cheun said it was a “major step forward” in operator transition to open RAN, adding it was the “first scaled deployment of our pioneering 5G technologies in Europe, including vRAN and open RAN”.

Analyst view
CCS Insight director of network infrastructure Richard Webb said the deal represents a major market breakthrough for Samsung and a strong validation of its 5G RAN portfolio”.

“Although Ericsson and Nokia have established market leadership in Europe, there is room for alternatives and now that Huawei’s position has been undermined by trade restrictions, it leaves the door open to Samsung to stake a claim for a growing share of the market.”

GSMA Intelligence head Peter Jarich stated a recent operator survey “makes it clear that they want to leverage 5G to introduce new vendors and open networking technologies into their networks. What’s also clear, however, is that they are more likely to favour larger, established vendors”.