German operator 1&1 announced open RAN is fully functional and available throughout the country on its 5G network, a feat achieved in partnership with Rakuten Symphony and vendor Mavenir, marking what the trio positioned as the first commercial deployment of the approach in Europe.

In a joint statement, the companies stated 1&1’s open RAN infrastructure is now being used to provide mobile broadband services, adding to a fixed wireless access play it launched using the approach in December 2022.

The operator stated it is still deploying its network, with customers currently automatically transferring to Telefonica’s infrastructure where it does not have its own coverage and a plan to switch to Vodafone Germany from mid-2024.

Ralph Dommermuth, CEO of 1&1, said full functionality was “a major milestone in our history”, while Pardeep Kohli, president and CEO of Mavenir, said the network was “Europe’s most advanced.”

After securing 5G spectrum to become Germany’s fourth operator in 2019, 1&1’s route to launching a commercial mobile service has not been without challenges.

The company stated in September 2022 it would fall short of the German regulator’s interim target of deploying 1,000 5G sites by the end of that year due to supplier issues, pushing the timeline to mid-2023.

However, it also missed the updated goal: Dommermuth said on an earnings call in August it would not have 1,000 sites ready for installation until the year-end, while only a few hundred would be fully operational.

Open RAN has gained momentum in Europe, with Vodafone Group stating in October it introduced the technology in Italy through a pilot programme and in a cluster of commercial network sites in Romania.

The technology approach garnered big headlines in the US this week after AT&T signed a $14 billion deal with vendor Ericsson to support its deployment.