Vodafone successfully completed the industry’s first trial of implementing multi-vendor RAN intelligent controllers (RICs) – a technology that could accelerate the development of the OpenRAN ecosystem and result in higher quality 5G networks for consumers and businesses.
OpenRAN is a vendor-independent approach with standardized designs that enable various companies to deliver hardware and software. Operators benefit from increased innovation from a wider range of suppliers, reduced costs and greater flexibility, as the threat of supplier blockage is reduced.
Vodafone has been a strong supporter of the technology, promising to deploy OpenRAN to at least 2,600 locations in the UK by 2027. However, to do so, it must be able to open an OpenRAN ecosystem with tested equipment. and marketed.These efforts have enabled Vodafone to partner with companies in the mobile industry and to open a test lab at its Newbury headquarters.
With the latter pilot, Vodafone has partnered with Cohere Technologies, Capgemini Engineering, Intel and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) to double the capacity of a 5G cell using an AI-based programmable RIC that could support kits from multiple suppliers.
Significantly, this was the first demonstration of 5G Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) using RIC at a multi-vendor RAN site.
MU-MIMO is a network technology that increases the capacity of a 5G cell by distributing bandwidth equally to each connected device and is considered to be one of the primary ways in which operators will increase the capacity of their sites to support supports the most demanding 5G applications.
The success of the trial is therefore hailed as a major step in the development of the OpenRAN ecosystem. Because the RIC architecture has been standardized by the O-RAN Alliance, all suppliers and operators have access to a common framework that paves the way for commercialization.