What’s up with… Vodafone and Open RAN, Eurochips, European FTTx

  • Vodafone calls for greater Open RAN collaboration
  • Spain to invest billions in home-made chips
  • Fibre broadband investments, rollouts ramp up across Europe

Vodafone’s latest Open RAN industry appeal, Spain’s pledge for regional chip investments, and Europe’s latest fibre broadband action are at the front of today’s news queue.  

Vodafone issued its latest call for greater industry involvement in the development of the Open RAN sector by publishing a ‘Systems Integration White Paper’ that aims to “make it easier for equipment manufacturers to meet the needs of operators whilst potentially reducing the total cost of associated hardware and software.” The paper calls for “the existing operating model to evolve to a distributed and collaborative effort. Instead of each vendor setting up their own centralised lab for all parts of a mobile base station as they do today, there is a coordinated multivendor network of labs – each responsible for part of the radio infrastructure, such as the radio unit or the software. This eliminates duplication when testing software and hardware and reduces the need for specialist engineers, saving both time and resources. These satellite labs avoid repetition when dealing with individual operators. Vodafone’s own calculations show that cost savings of up to 40% can be achieved for the industry when moving to a distributed system integration lab network.” You can download the paper here. The announcement came as the operator’s Fellow and Network Architecture Director, Yago Tenorio, reiterated Vodafone’s commitment to Open RAN deployments during TelecomTV’s DSP Leaders World Forum 2022 event in Windsor, UK: Tenorio, who is also Chairman of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), told Forum attendees that significant progress had been made on the development of Open RAN-enabled elements, including massive MIMO radios fit for urban 5G deployments, and that the operator was aiming to have 30% of its mobile networks (in city as well as rural deployments) across Europe deployed using Open RAN architectures by 2030. Vodafone has, of course, made an early start to its Open RAN deployments in the UK. Tenorio had plenty more to say on the topic of Open RAN, as did other Forum participants (not all of whom are as optimistic about the open architecture approach): Watch out for further coverage of that debate on TelecomTV during the coming days.    

As the world’s regions seek to avoid the kind of supply chain issues that have dogged multiple sectors during the past couple of years by building their own tech production facilities, the Spanish government has announced plans to invest €12.25 billion up to 2027 on developing the country’s own semiconductor sector, including €9.3 billion on chip fabrication plants, reports Reuters                                                                                                        

The money just keeps pouring into the UK’s FTTH altnet sector... Freedom Fibre, which is focused on building out a fibre access network in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire areas of north-west England, has secured £100 million to fund its rollout, which is installing fibre through BT’s existing ducts and poles in the region. Of that total, £84 million comes from infrastructure investor Equitix, while the remaining £16 million comes from a debt facility provided by Santander. Freedom Fibre has already started building its access networks, passing 20,000 premises, and ultimately aims to reach 2 million with a network it will wholesale to ISPs – it already has a commitment from TalkTalk to use its network. Read more.  

The news comes, somewhat ironically, just as reports emerge of plans to step in should any of the UK’s alternative fibre access network builders (of which, incredibly, there are now more than 100) go out of business and leave customers in the lurch. As ISP Review reports, with its usual candour and insight, Ofcom is believed to have set up contingency plans with BT’s access division Openreach to step in should the worst happen.

In more positive news for the fibre broadband sector, the FTTH Council Europe has issued its latest ‘Panorama’ report that tracks the rate of fibre access rollouts across Europe and service uptake. The good news is that across the EU39* markets monitored by research firm IDATE on behalf of the Council, there were 198.4 million premises passed at the end of September 2021, up from 176.3 million a year earlier, while the number of subscribers in the region hit 96.1 million, up from 81.7 million a year earlier. The main movers in terms of homes passed in absolute numbers are France (+4.3 million), United Kingdom (+3.4 million), Germany (+2.4 million) and Italy (+1.5 million). “The data from the latest Market Panorama confirms that fibre roll-out is steadily advancing at an increasingly faster pace. We can say with confidence that we are on the right track to meet the EU’s ambitious connectivity targets set out by “Gigabit Society 2025” and “Digital Compass 2030” strategies, yet the current momentum needs to be maintained and for this to happen the support at the political and regulatory level will be key,” stated Eric Festraets, President of the FTTH Council Europe. (* EU39 = EU27+UK + 4 CIS countries + Andorra, Iceland, Israel, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey.) Read more.

Speaking of broadband in Italy… TIM (Telecom Italia) and its current wholesale rival Open Fiber have been selected by Italy’s Ministry for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition to build out fibre broadband connections to 7 million hard-to-reach premises in Italy. The Ministry awarded eight ‘Italia a 1 Giga’ tenders worth €1.8 billion to Open Fiber and six tenders worth €1.6 billion to TIM. “Public funds will finance up to 70% of the investments that must be made by 30 June 2026,” noted the Ministry, while “the winners of the tender will complete the investments with their own funds, estimated at around 1.5 billion euros.” For further details, see this announcement.

As fixed broadband rollouts grow, one of the beneficiaries is Nokia, which provides many fixed access network operators with FTTX technology. It claims to have reached the 1.5 million port milestone for its Quillion chipset-based broadband solutions, of which 500,000 ports are 25G PON-ready. Read more.

Telefónica boosted its presence in the US by setting up a new Virtual Data Center (VDC) node in Virginia to tap opportunities in what it deems “the world’s leading market for cloud and cyber security businesses,” a market worth $539 billion. Its Telefónica Tech arm has added the service to an already existing VDC node it operates in Miami, Florida, and will provide communications and security services to US-based enterprises. According to the company, its solution will allow businesses to create hybrid environments at a predictable cost from private clouds and host applications “in a secure environment” either on their own premises or at Telefónica’s data centres. VDC, the operator argued, can recover lost business data or functionalities after a security incident, and can provide backup, access protection and other security measures.

South Korean operator SK Telecom (SKT) has put a value of KRW2.341 trillion (approximately $1.8 billion) on the ‘social value’ it generated in 2021, up 20.3% year-over-year and its highest output since it started this type of measurement in 2018. To calculate its social value, the company takes into account efforts made towards things like employment, environmental performance and social aspects such as ‘win-win growth’ and social contribution. It recorded a sharp increase in indirect economic contributions due to expansion in employment and increased tax payment driven by what it claims was a “strong business performance.” SKT acknowledged there was a rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions because of “the expanded deployment of 5G infrastructure,” however it added that its social value in terms of environmental performance was still able to minimise negative effects by imposing measures to enhance energy efficiency, including through Single RAN adoption. Find out more here.

How big is the global telecoms services market and by how much might it grow? A new report suggests the market was valued at $1.73 trillion in 2021 and it is set to hit around $2.65 trillion by 2030. Read more

- The staff, TelecomTV

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