Vodafone UK commenced deployment of virtualised open RAN equipment in 2,500 sites, advancing a process to remove legacy Huawei kit from its network in line with government requirements.

The operator stated it had commenced open RAN deployments in Wales and parts of England with backing from Samsung; Intel; Keysight Technologies; Dell Technologies; Capgemini; and Wind River.

Vodafone’s replacement programme is a multi-year strategy to remove all high-risk equipment from its RAN within government timelines.

The UK government banned use of Huawei 5G equipment in 2020, giving operators until 2027 to rip out existing products.

Vodafone explained it had worked with the industry for several years to evolve open RAN equipment and conduct trials.

After validating the technology in laboratories, it deployed open RAN in rural locations, before beginning a multi-site deployment project in a pair of English towns.

It claimed KPIs demonstrated the performance of open RAN exceeded that of legacy equipment in the majority of areas, including 4G and 5G call rates, and download and upload data rates across multiple spectrum frequencies.

The achievements leave Vodafone clear to remove equipment deemed risky “without compromising customer experience”.

Vodafone UK chief network officer Andrea Dona noted the industry had only started working on the open RAN concept in earnest in 2016, “so to see the KPIs align to traditional technology is a testament to the work being done”.

“Open RAN is a central pillar to our network strategy for numerous reasons. Most importantly, we see this as a vehicle for transformation, opening doors that would otherwise have been closed.”