Vodafone Open RAN Lab

In April 2021, the Vodafone group established a global Open RAN Test and Validation Lab facility in their corporate campus in Newbury. The lab is designed to address their specific and detailed technical and business requirements fully.

It is privately owned and operated, and for Vodafone’s use only.

Vodafone is particularly active in Open RAN space and an early adopter – running their Open RAN strategy across their technology operations in the UK and Spain. Vodafone has also been an early participant in both TIP and the ORAN Alliance, both important planks in their ecosystem engagement strategy; however, there are limits to what can realistically be done in TIP and OTIC labs, so Vodafone’s own Open RAN lab would be better suited to fully address their specific and detailed technical and business requirements.

Vodafone has publicly stated their intent to deploy 2,500 Open RAN sites in the UK countryside – so there is a clear and specific goal in mind which helps focus the mind of Vodafone’s engineers and suppliers. Being an established ‘brownfield’ operator seeking to productise an end to end Open RAN platform, Vodafone may also need to consider integration aspects to their legacy infrastructure.

An Open RAN system integration white paper recently published by Vodafone recently is notable, in that it clearly and eloquently describes how Vodafone sees the role of their own integration testing lab within a wider context of other test facilities operated by vendors, system integrators, and other ecosystem players and how Vodafone aims to engage with these other facilities and initiatives in a structured and systematic way.

Vodafone’s focus will be to achieve end-to-end productisation and support of their chosen combinations of Open RAN network element components (RU, DU, CU, OSS, RIC, xhaul, etc) within the context of the Vodafone network – as in this new distributed system integration model, the ultimate responsibility for interoperability sits with the MNO.