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Telefónica Germany rolls out OpenRAN small cells

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OpenRAN small cells are rolling out in Munich courtesy of Telefónica Germany, marking another milestone for the budding technology.

The operator is using these small cells to add capacity to its network in dense, urban environments. Similarly to Vodafone, which is deploying OpenRAN primarily to plug rural coverage gaps, Telefónica Germany has cast OpenRAN in a supporting role, providing targeted coverage to improve the overall performance of its 5G network. Telefónica said this densification will help it address new opportunities in Germany’s enterprise 5G market.

“We are proud to have launched Germany’s first small cells built on innovative OpenRAN technologies that help to complete the delivery of granular, high-quality connectivity in dense urban areas,” said Matthias Sauder, director, mobile access and transport at Telefónica Germany, in a statement.

Japan-based NEC is Telefónica’s systems integration partner for its OpenRAN deployment, and to that end has provided the telco with Airspan’s small cell hardware powered by Rakuten Symphony’s Open vRAN software. NEC and Telefónica have been working together on OpenRAN since September last year; their partnership covers not only Germany, but Brazil, Spain, and the UK as well.

Telefónica and NEC claim this is the first deployment of OpenRAN small cells in Germany, and while that may be the case, there is still plenty of action taking place in Germany when it comes to OpenRAN.

1&1 is one of the more noteworthy examples, because the greenfield operator is deploying a fully-virtualised, OpenRAN-based mobile network from the ground up. It is working in partnership with Rakuten Symphony on the rollout, which began in the fourth quarter of last year.

At Mobile World Congress this week, Vodafone announced that it plans to use OpenRAN in 30 percent of its masts in Europe – which includes Germany, of course – by 2030. Last November it emerged that it is working with Nokia and network software provider Mavenir to transform Plauen in Germany into a so-called ‘OpenRAN city’ that will be a live testbed for new OpenRAN-based products.

Not to be left out, incumbent Deutsche Telekom is also a big fan of OpenRAN. Last June it claimed Europe’s first live OpenRAN deployment in Neubrandenburg, which has been dubbed ‘O-RAN Town’. It has partnered with a broad range of suppliers, including NEC, Fujitsu, Dell, Intel, Mavenir and Supermicro.

OpenRAN has been a recurring topic at this week’s Mobile World Congress, with the likes of Mavenir, Qualcomm, and Rakuten Symphony, among others, all making their voices heard. But despite all the buzz, the jury is still out on whether OpenRAN will be able to deliver on its promise to meaningfully lower the cost of network deployment and perform at the level that operators require.


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