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Samsung has no 2G, and that is an issue for Vodafone


No person desires to spend cash on steam engines when high-speed bullet trains are the long run. However what if steam engines are nonetheless in use?

It is arguably the only biggest conundrum for open RAN. The set of interfaces, designed to ease interoperability between suppliers, is being developed with extra superior 4G and 5G in thoughts. But the older generations could also be round for years.

Two corporations are underneath the highlight. On the telco facet is Vodafone, whose chief know-how officer, Johan Wibergh, this week informed Cellular World Congress that his firm “will” use open RAN at 30% of its European masts by 2030.

It’s already making the swap at 2,500 UK websites the place Huawei, its 2G supplier, should be evicted underneath authorities orders by the tip of 2027. That’s 5 years earlier than the federal government expects 2G to be phased out.

Samsung’s 2G technique is underneath the highlight.
(Photograph by Fiona Graham)

On the seller facet is Samsung. It isn’t solely the primary provider on Vodafone UK’s open RAN challenge. Additionally it is the most important international different to Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia and ZTE, the 4 kit-making incumbents.

However it has concentrated completely on 4G and 5G, missing not solely a 3G product portfolio – a difficulty beforehand flagged by Vodafone – but additionally a 2G one.

Woojune Kim, Samsung’s head of world gross sales, dismissed concern at Cellular World Congress whereas acknowledging a niche exists.

“If you are able to do 4G and 5G and vRAN [virtual RAN], then 2G is a chunk of cake,” he informed Gentle Studying.

“If you may make gigabit speeds by software program on vRAN, how tough can 2G be?”

The RAN and not using a plan

Straightforward repair or in any other case, the corporate has no official public steering on its 2G technique, and the dearth of element is hardly encouraging. Orange, one other telco enthused by open RAN, reckons one of the best resolution is to part out 2G (and 3G) by the tip of this decade.

However Vodafone has indicated that even a 3G shutdown within the UK will likely be tough to execute within the subsequent few years.

At a press convention in September 2021, Ker Anderson, Vodafone UK’s head of radio and efficiency, mentioned he expects 2G to outlast 3G and nonetheless be round when he retires. Judging by his look and power ranges, will probably be a very long time earlier than Anderson trades work for gardening, lengthy walks with the canine or daytime TV.

Barring a Samsung repair or the loss of life of 2G, Vodafone should keep two separate networks – one constructed by Samsung (together with a couple of different open RAN suppliers) for the 4G and 5G enterprise and one constructed by Huawei for 2G (and probably 3G).

It has already activated one open RAN web site on this foundation. However Anderson beforehand expressed concern that operating parallel networks at scale would “create a canine’s dinner of capabilities in order that managing visitors … turns into a efficiency nightmare.”

It is also pricey. Completely different generations of cell know-how have been collapsed onto single {hardware} platforms (so-called single RAN), permitting operators to make use of much less infrastructure.

Nokia, for example, now advertises that “only one basestation can run concurrently 5G, 4G, 3G and 2G applied sciences.” Vodafone wouldn’t have this economical possibility.

Basically, as rivals benefit from single RAN – no different UK operator shares Vodafone’s open RAN zeal – Vodafone might be lumbered with twice as a lot {hardware}.

There are implications for masts, too. Extra tools would take up area and put additional stress on them, probably resulting in larger web site rental charges or expenditure on reinforcing the metal.

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The Huawei footprint is way larger than 2,500 websites, as effectively. Judging by feedback Vodafone made in 2019, it’s extra like 6,000. If the operator’s concept is to increase open RAN to the rest, the job could be even more durable.

However turning to Ericsson or Nokia, the one viable 2G suppliers, could be awkward. If Vodafone couldn’t even handle an open RAN transition throughout 30% of its UK footprint, how might it anticipate to comprehend Wibergh’s pan-European aim? 2G and 3G, in spite of everything, aren’t confined to the UK.

After all, that is all speculative, and it doesn’t imply Wibergh’s goal is unattainable or that parallel Vodafone networks within the UK are inevitable. Samsung could present a repair. Vodafone may have the ability to retire 2G by the late 2020s.

What’s curious is Vodafone’s seemingly spiritual dedication to open RAN, a know-how that can give it no discernible benefit however one riddled with threat. One senior know-how government at one other European operator expressed befuddlement concerning the Vodafone technique.

The massive pitch stays the identical: That open RAN will diversify a market nonetheless managed by a couple of business giants.

However that oligopoly – a pure consequence of the push for globalization – has delivered enormous economies of scale and a cell increase, a lot as Intel did in laptop chips. Diversification of the open RAN selection continues to be a tough promote.

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— Iain Morris, Worldwide Editor, Gentle Studying



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