Telefónica / O2:First German network operator with Open RAN in live operation

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Markus Haas
Telefónica / O2 is taking a technological frontrunner role in the use of Open RAN. The company is the first German network operator to rely on Open RAN in live operation of its mobile network. With the open and vendor-independent solution for the radio access network (RAN), the company is launching a new era for German mobile communications. Open RAN can not only significantly change the supplier structure in the mobile communications sector worldwide, but also significantly accelerate the introduction of new services. Network operators and industry alike will benefit from this. In a pilot phase, Telefónica Deutschland / O2 is converting three O2 mobile sites in Landsberg am Lech, Bavaria. From fall 2021, the company plans to roll out the new technology on a larger scale in the O2 network. "Our goal is to offer our customers the most technologically advanced and best network. With Open RAN, we are focusing on the future and are technological frontrunners in Germany. In addition, Open RAN offers us maximum flexibility in deployment and also in the subsequent replacement of system-critical components. On the basis of such technological approaches, we can secure and further accelerate digitization in Germany," says Markus Haas, CEO of Telefónica Deutschland / O2.

Components can be deployed modularly via Open RAN

Credits: Henning Koepke / Telefónica Deutschland
Open RAN ensures significantly more manufacturer diversity in the access network
In the future, the innovative technological approach of Open RAN will offer significantly greater flexibility in the selection of manufacturers. Currently, the radio access networks of German mobile network operators are characterized by a closed architecture that is dependent on a single manufacturer. Hardware and software components, spare parts and technology updates usually come from one and the same manufacturer. As a rule, the technology of leading manufacturers cannot be combined. Telefónica Deutschland / O2, like the other German network operators, has therefore been pursuing a strategy for years that relies mainly on two suppliers. Their technology is used to build the radio access network in different areas of the country in each case. Open RAN breaks up this vendor dependency in the radio access network. Providers such as Telefónica / O2 will therefore be able to use hardware and software freely available on the market as the basis for building their base stations. Open RAN is more software-based, which will significantly simplify and accelerate base station upgrades. Less fixed infrastructure will need to be replaced or exchanged, as updating the software will largely suffice. All of Open RAN's components will be modular and flexible. The best possible components can therefore be combined with each other. This can lead to cost savings of up to 30 percent in the radio access network.

New services enter the network faster

Credits: Telefónica Deutschland
Mallik Rao
"We were the first network operator to take the innovative future technology Open RAN out of the lab and into the live mobile network. The use of Open RAN is a central factor in the virtualization of our O2 network, which we launched with the new 5G core network. The two play perfectly together and we will be able to integrate new services and services into the network much faster," says Mallik Rao, Chief Technology & Information Officer at Telefónica Deutschland / O2. After all, what used to take up to several weeks due to hardware replacement will be possible in a matter of days or even hours with Open RAN and a cloud-based core network.

Telefónica / O2 tests Open RAN in the O2 network in Landsberg am Lech, Bavaria

Open RAN not only creates a new competitive situation for established technology manufacturers. It also opens up market opportunities for new manufacturers with innovative ideas. They can come from technical areas adjacent to mobile communications. "Open RAN will significantly expand the range of potential technology partners for our O2 network," Mallik Rao continued. "We will be able to flexibly target the providers with the best products for us. This will provide more diversity. It will also allow us to accelerate our network rollout and offer our customers even better network quality. With Open RAN, we are taking a big step into the future of mobile communications infrastructure." In the city of Landsberg am Lech, Telefónica Deutschland / O2 has currently connected one base station to the Open RAN, others are prepared and will follow soon. In this way, O2 is integrating more and more customers into the pilot project step by step. The way in which customers use the network will in turn enable Telefónica engineers to draw conclusions about further optimization possibilities for the Open RAN technology.

Close cooperation agreed between Telefónica / O2 and NEC for pilot area

The Japanese manufacturer NEC is one of the companies involved in the global development of Open RAN. Due to its extensive Open RAN expertise, Telefónica / O2 has chosen NEC as a partner for the pilot project in the O2 network in the Landsberg area. NEC will coordinate the setup and operation of the Open RAN at the Landsberg cellular sites, as well as combine the individual hardware assemblies and software from other participating companies such as Dell, Intel, Altiostar, Xilinx, Red Hat, GigaTera and Supermicro into a complete system. "We are proud to offer Open RAN, which brings tremendous value to our customers," said Mayuko Tatewaki, General Manager, Service Provider Solutions Division, NEC Corporation. "We are very pleased to contribute to Telefónica Deutschland's highly strategic initiative with our IT/networking expertise and unique experience in Japan to accelerate the global adoption of Open RAN."

Open RAN photos

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