Vodafone Group took significant steps with an ongoing strategy to deploy open RAN across Europe, introducing the technology in Italy through a pilot programme with Nokia and completing 4G calls over a cluster of shared commercial network sites in Romania in partnership with Orange and Samsung.

The Italy 5G open RAN pilot will cover a cluster of sites in northern parts of the country, using its pan-European network and Nokia’s containerised baseband software, as well as technology from partners Red Hat, Dell and Marvell.

The operator claimed the deployment was the first of its kind in the country and builds on a joint vision with Nokia to develop “a fully automated and programmable network that can respond quickly to our customers’ needs”.

Alberto Ripepi, chief network officer at Vodafone said the announcement reinforces its commitment to supporting the EU’s digital economy through customer focussed open RAN networks. Head of Nokia RAN Mark Atkinson added it was delivering more choice and higher performance in open RAN solutions to customers “than they will see from other RAN suppliers”.

4G calling
In Romania, Vodafone and Orange claimed a technological milestone in conducting a trial of “real life experience of 4G calls” in a rural area near capital Bucharest, based on open RAN. The pilot used vendor Samsung’s vRAN solutions.

The feat builds on a partnership announced in February which committed to building open RAN through network sharing in rural parts of Europe where they both operate mobile networks.

Following the successful completion of 4G calls over shared sites, the duo will now look to introduce 2G, before moving on to 5G.

“Alongside Orange we have developed a model which will serve as a blueprint to extend mobile networks to rural communities across Europe,” added Ripepi.

Vodafone is aiming to have 30 per cent of its masts based on open RAN in Europe by 2030, Developments in Italy and Romania build on a recent move to deploy 2,500 sites across the UK, claimed to be the first large scale deployment of open RAN in Europe.