It’s been a bumper week for progress in Open RAN: a 280-million customer mobile operating group (that’s as big as Vodafone) commits to Open RAN, technical breakthroughs – and more vendor selections.

Dish announced Dell as its provider for edge compute infrastructure. (Last week, Dell was identified as a market leader for DC and Edge Compute in Open RAN projects in an Appledore report.)

Speaking of Dell, they scored another major Open RAN project with Vodafone UK, who plan to deploy open RAN at 2,500 sites in the UK. Dell is making a major play in telecom and has already established itself as a top 5 vendor across all Open RAN projects.

Speaking of Vodafone, they announced the other key partners on their ambitious Open RAN rollout – alongside Dell are NEC, Samsung, WindRiver, CapGemini Engineering (Altran) and Keysight Technologies. New radio kit will have Evenstar specs – that’s the work by the Telecom Infra Project to build a general-purpose RAN reference architecture for 4G and 5G. Evenstar already has vendor partners including Altiostar, Baicells, Mavenir, MTI, Parallel Wireless and Xilinx on board. Lab tests on Evenstar radio units are already complete, and live kit is expected in the field in the second half of 2021.

Samsung will deliver both open vRAN software (its first European vRAN customer) and radio units to Vodafone.

Rakuten continued to challenge convention, with plans to go even more open – on the price points for RAN components. Further proof, if it were needed, that open RAN is not a technology, but a radical change in how telecom business is conducted.  Tareq Amin accepts that not all vendors are comfortable working with these new rules, but for those that are, Rakuten will be active in promoting their offerings.

Another week, another Open RAN lab. This time from Nokia, with a new facility in Dallas aimed at giving Nokia customers and partners the ability to perform interoperability and validation tests. Significantly, the press release also references testing of xApps on the near-real-time RIC. As we highlighted in our recent report, Nokia is an early leader in open RAN RIC projects, and this space is positively buzzing with vendor and operator activity.

Speaking of RICs, VMware and Cohere Technologies announced a new joint solution following the Open RAN RIC-plus-xApps paradigm, that can double the spectral efficiency of the RAN. Re-read that: *double* the spectral efficiency. Without new network kit. Are the alarm bells ringing yet? The announcement follows Vodafone’s successful demonstration of the solution. VMware already ranks as a leader for cloud platforms in open RAN projects – their expansion into the RIC space suggests they will become an even more strategic vendor for mobile CSPs.

Mobile operator MTN Group opened up about its plans (“rollout by end of 2021”) and vendors (Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, TechMahindra and Voyage) for open RAN rollout. MTN explicitly linked Open RAN with supporting its carbon emission targets. We should expect to see more from the Open RAN community in due course regarding power efficiency vs traditional solutions. MTN is an emerging markets operator, with over 280m subscribers across 21 markets. For context, Vodafone has around the same total number of subscribers.

With Open RAN, it’s the big picture that counts. And that picture is filling out rapidly. This week has seen additional major operator commitment, material progress from challenger vendors, direct linkage between Open RAN and corporate goals, as well as solid proof of the new value that is enabled by an open RAN strategy (and some super-smart innovators). 2021 is not disappointing Open RAN’s supporters.

See Appledore’s latest report on Open RAN, “Who’s Winning in Open RAN?”.

See all research on Open RAN