Currently, cellular infrastructure in the UK is dominated by three companies: Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei, and obviously the latter of these is subject to a lot of controversy at the moment.
It’s in this environment that Vodafone is kicking off a test of its own open access radio technology – Open Radio Access Networks, or “OpenRAN” – in the UK. This will be a first for Europe, though the company has run lab tests in South Africa and deployed it in Turkey for both 2G and 4G across rural and urban areas.
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Co-developed by Intel, OpenRAN standardises hardware and software design in the masts, antennae and other infrastructure that makes up a radio access network. In theory, this could allow customers to use it – both calls and data – at a cheaper price than is currently available, though it’s also possible that these savings will be gobbled up by upgrades along the way, of course.
“We are pleased with trials of OpenRAN and are ready to fast track it into Europe as we seek to actively expand our vendor ecosystem,” said Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read. “OpenRAN improves the network economics enabling us to reach more people in rural communities and that supports our goal to build digital societies in which no-one is left behind.”
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The trial will begin in 120 rural areas around Britain today, with tests in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo to follow. The latter two have been chosen as they’re near the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index, making them a different kind of test to the British version. All three trials will support 2G, 3G and 4G services, with 5G possible on OpenRAN in the future.
Is this a positive step to make mobile data more competitive, or just more competition for competition’s sake? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.