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UK surfers get OpenRAN-based connectivity

Vodafone has launched two new live OpenRAN sites in the UK, one of which will serve Newquay’s Fistral Beach, a spot beloved by surfers.

The mobile operator, which declared itself the first in the UK to switch on a live OpenRAN site last summer when it used the technology to connect customers around the Royal Welsh Showground in Powys, Wales, announced the new sites as part of a broader announcement on its commitment to the South West region.

Both new Open RAN sites are in Cornwall, the second being located at St Keverne, a village on the Lizard peninsula in the south of the county. The sites will provide 4G connectivity and are open for business at a critical time for Cornwall, just ahead of an expected summer influx of tourists that is already starting to make itself felt across the South West.

The two Cornish sites may only be Vodafone’s second and third Open RAN locations in the UK, but it appears to be just a matter of time before their number multiply. “Hundreds more rural communities in the South West are set to benefit from the technology by 2027,” Vodafone said, without really giving much away.

Nonetheless, we already know that Vodafone is a keen proponent of OpenRAN. Aside from the Powys launch in August, Vodafone is working towards deploying Open RAN in other key markets and is carrying out trials in the Netherlands, Ireland and elsewhere. The telco is a founder member of a European Open RAN group that also includes Telefónica, Orange, Deutsche Telekom and TIM, and is designed to further collaboration between operators and seek government and regulatory backing to smooth the way for the introduction of Open RAN on a large scale. In addition, in April it shared plans to set up an OpenRAN Test and Integration Lab at its Newbury technology campus.

“From our investment in and around historic Porthcurno to brand new OpenRAN technology being installed at Fistral Beach and St Keverne, we are committed to investing in Cornwall and connecting its people and businesses,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK.

Porthcurno, close to Land’s End, was at the cutting edge of technology 150 years ago, being the landing station for the first undersea telegraph cable. To cut a long story short, the cable operations there eventually became part of Cable & Wireless, part of which was bought by Vodafone in 2012. As such, the Vodafone Foundation has donated money to the PK Porthcurno museum in recent years.

It is perhaps fitting then, that Vodafone has chosen locations in the same county to roll out the latest in mobile radio access network technology. Times have changed a lot since 1870, mind.

The eyes of the world are once again on western Cornwall though, with the G7 leaders due to meet once again at nearby Carbis Bay at the end of this week. Vodafone is pretty proud to have provided fixed-line technology for the summit, but has – understandably – not shared many details of that network deployment.

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