Vodafone plans to install new 4G and 5G masts at approximately 30,000 locations across Europe.
The masts will use open RAN technology, which allows open hardware, software interfaces, and cellular wireless networks to communicate with one another.
In a blog post, Vodafone Group Chief Technology Officer Johan Wibergh stated that any equipment that needs to be replaced from existing 5G masts will be reused elsewhere to reduce unnecessary waste. The more adaptable radio technology will benefit rural areas first. Vodafone expects to use open RAN technology in 30% of its masts across Europe by 2030.
“Local scale is required to close the investment gap and ensure that 5G can be deployed at a rapid pace.” “To close the digitalization gap, regional scale is required,” said Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read in a keynote address at MWC. Europe’s current 5G coverage is low – around 10% of the population – compared to China and the United States, which have coverage rates of about 60% and 45 percent, respectively.
Vodafone was the first to launch a live open RAN site in Wales, touting easily accessible, low-cost hardware with cloud-based capabilities. Vodafone U.K. CTO Scott Petty stated that open RAN “has the potential to make us less reliant on current larger technology suppliers, and find ways to reduce the cost of rolling out mobile coverage.”
Many wireless cellular companies are interested in open RAN because it can assist in meeting the stringent 5G application requirements. Open RAN could help operators avoid “vendor lock in,” spurring network innovation and potentially lowering overall network management costs.
Read went on to say that Open RAN is a “great example of sector collaboration.” He emphasized the work Vodafone has done in collaboration with the Spanish government, such as establishing a pan-European R&D center in Malaga and developing a European V-Hub service to assist small and medium-sized businesses in digitalizing their operations.
Read also announced the launch of the Digital Asset Broker platform, which is a component of Vodafone’s expanding IoT platform, which currently supports over 140 million devices in 180 countries. For example, the new platform would allow cars to automatically pay for their own fueling. With 62 percent of Europe’s leading automotive brands relying on Vodafone IoT, he claims that the carrier has evolved to support the “Economy of Things.”
Despite the cross-sector support Vodafone has received thus far, Europe still has a long way to go in terms of addressing market fragmentation and coverage gaps. “It will be up to the operators, the government, and the European Commission to find the best solution,” Read concluded.