TIM increases Open RAN footprint again

Just over a month after launching its second Open RAN location, TIM has added a third to its footprint.

The Italian incumbent said it has rolled out Open RAN technology in the town of Saluzzo, in south-west Piedmont, using a equipment from a variety of providers, some of which were part of its previous Open RAN launches.

RAN software components were supplied by JMA Wireless, radio frequency equipment came from Microelectronics Technology (MTI), and Dell Technologies supplied the hardware, while Cisco was responsible for transport and Italtel for systems integration.

TIM was slightly – or fashionably, you could argue – late to the Open RAN party in Western Europe, joining a major telco Open RAN alliance in February, a couple of weeks after it was founded by Vodafone, Telefónica, Orange and Deutsche Telekom. It quickly made up for having arrived after the canapés, carrying out a live Open RAN trial over 4G in the town of Faenza in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region in April.

Location two – Matera, in the south of the country – followed in September, also on 4G, and came alongside the announcement that the telco had also established an OpenRAN 5G standalone connection at its Innovation Lab in Turin – home to the Open Test and Integration Centre (OTIC) TIM unveiled in June. It explained that it would launch the technology in the field at Matera “soon,” but did not comment on that plan in this latest Open RAN announcement. Nor did it specify whether it is using 5G or (more likely) 4G in Saluzzo.

“Now that laboratory tests have been run in Turin and field tests completed in Faenza and Matera, TIM is also bringing the new mobile radio network to Saluzzo, thus creating one of the most extensive Open RAN coverages in Europe,” TIM said.

It’s difficult to qualify that last statement, given that many operators are working on introducing Open RAN, but TIM is certainly one of the front runners in Europe.

Last month Telefonica announced pre-commercial Open RAN trials in partnership with NEC in its four main markets: Spain, Germany, the UK and Brazil. It is looking to reach at least 800 cell sites over time, with commercial use starting next year. Prior to that announcement, it was already working on trials in Germany and the UK.

Deutsche Telekom activated the first few of its planned 25 Open RAN sites in the German town of Neubrandenburg in June; Vodafone has launched a couple of Open RAN sites in the UK and is carrying out trials elsewhere; and Open RAN is part of Orange’s planned end-to-end experimental cloud network in Lannion in north west France.

Those are just a few examples of Open RAN activity in Europe. TIM once again stated that it is “the only operator in Italy and among the first in Europe to have already launched an important infrastructure initiative to create the ‘open network’ model, which promotes the involvement of software development and start-up companies.” That may well be correct, but it is one of many when it comes to pushing the technology closer to broad commercial use.

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