European operator heavyweights Orange and Vodafone Group agreed to share open RAN networks in rural parts of the region where both operate, with a pilot project set to take place in Romania later this year.

Orange and Vodafone stated the agreement was the first time they had agreed to share open RAN, one which reinforced their respective commitments to make the approach their choice for mobile networks across Europe.

The first commercial site covered by the agreement will be in a rural area of Romania, providing an “initial real-life experience” of the model for integrating multi-vendor hardware and software, paving the way for wider scale deployments in other markets.

Orange and Vodafone added they are also working to individually select strategic vendors for the initial build phase.

Explaining the rationale behind the push, the pair stated open RAN unlocked significant advantages over traditional network sharing, providing greater flexibility when adding new or upgrading existing radio sites, while keeping cost and energy consumption low.

Hype around open RAN continues to grow: news of the agreement comes after both operators contributed to a report outlining targets for advancing the ecosystem for the rest of 2023 produced with fellow European players Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia and Telefonica.

Orange CTIO Michael Trabbia said open RAN sharing represents a major step towards agile and fully-automated networks, while Vodafone chief network officer Alberto Ripepi outlined the cost benefits.

“By combining resources, we will reduce the cost of hardware, minimise fuel consumption and the need for duplicate sites whilst eradicating coverage not-spots.”

The composition of the partnership was agreed in line with a MoU signed by major European operators in early 2021.