Vodafone creating indoor OpenRAN solution for business customers

UK operator Vodafone continues its momentum in developing OpenRAN solutions by partnering with Mavenir to create an indoor small cell solution for business customers

Marking the extension of a long-standing partnership between the two companies to bring the advantages of OpenRAN to more users of its network, especially within the enterprise environment, UK communications provider Vodafone and end-to-end cloud-native communications network software firm Mavenir have revealed that they are working on a small cell solution based on OpenRAN technology to provide indoor connectivity for business customers.

Explaining the rationale for the launch, the companies said that a powerful, indoor small cell solution can offer several advantages to business customers. The simple plug-and-play installation means coverage can be instantly deployed, enabling seamless connectivity for every device in the office.

Moreover, they say the interoperability of the OpenRAN ecosystem paves the way for long-term flexibility to work with a wider array of vendors for elements such as radio units, baseband hardware and gateways.

Vodafone sees Open RAN as being able to help it separate the hardware and software components of the network to select optimal solution providers for specific roles, rather than proprietary end-to-end solutions on which most RAN technologies are built. The result of this is that it can tie operators to a small number of suppliers.

Based on the concept of interoperability, Open RAN standardises the development of hardware and software components, meaning telecoms operators would be able to source equipment from a wider variety of networks.

Open RAN is also seen by Vodafone as a catalyst in the RAN domain to evolve to become an organisation offering a software-defined and virtualised network with autonomous operation utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

So far, OpenRAN deployment has focused on outdoor connectivity, but there is significant potential for this technology in the office environment, said Vodafone UK chief network officer Andrea Dona.

“A simple plug-and-play product, which includes all the attractive benefits of the OpenRAN philosophy, is one that can build on our strength of providing indoor coverage through both our macro network and our bespoke solutions,” said Dona.

Initially providing 4G coverage, the solution is designed for business customers who occupy medium to large-sized office spaces, the plug-and-play small cell equipment is intended to ensure comprehensive mobile coverage in every corner of the office. The design of the indoor small call solution is based on the OpenRAN philosophy of interoperability.

In this case, the software will be provided by Mavenir (Open vRAN), while broadband networking software and firmware developer Sercomm will provide the radio hardware. The design and flexibility of the small cell solution means it will be interoperable with other OpenRAN compliant suppliers.

The development of an indoor small cell solution is the next stage of a long-standing relationship between Vodafone and Mavenir. In August 2020, Vodafone deployed the first OpenRAN site to carry live traffic in the UK. The sites, including the Royal Welsh Showground in Powys, feature Mavenir software and Sunwave radio units. Vodafone and Mavenir will continue this partnership to deploy more OpenRAN sites in the future.

“Mavenir is delighted to partner with Vodafone in Open RAN and to work in the UK on their radio network transformation initiative, proving the extreme flexibility of Open vRAN,” added Mavenir Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) senior vice-president Virtyt Koshi.

“We are particularly proud in working in the field within the Vodafone commercial network and in the Newbury Open RAN Test and Verification lab, supporting the Vodafone effort to boost the ecosystem.”

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