How can Open RAN be a catalyst for change?


Antonella Faniuolo, Head of Network Planning, Demand, Delivery and Transformation at Vodafone shares her insights into Vodafone’s transformation story from Telco to TechCo.

Can you tell us about your role at Vodafone? 

I lead Vodafone’s Network Planning, Demand, Delivery & Transformation team at a European level. We are responsible for translating Vodafone’s overall network strategy into actionable market plans to meet our commercial ambition across 12 European markets. In short, we look at the big picture and make sure that can be delivered at network level. 

What does it mean to be a modern telco according to Vodafone? 

At Vodafone we are currently undergoing a transformation to diversify from our traditional position as purely a telco and transform into a Tech Comms company. At the heart of that strategy, we are bringing teams and markets together to create One Technology team to better enable us to leverage our geographical scale. We are also investing in technologies beyond what would be considered the norm for the telecoms industry. 

For Vodafone, a modern telco is one that retains the connectivity proposition at the core of the business but offers a range of products and services above and beyond while operating with the agility and borderless mindset of a technology company. The objective is to offer value to our customers beyond what we traditionally offer. 

As the Head of Network Planning, Demand, Delivery & Transformation for Europe. What is the main challenge you face right now? 

We are transitioning to a new way of working that is build once and deploy many. Digital transformation programmes like this do not happen overnight; telecoms operators are complex organisations. This programme will have huge benefits for the business, leveraging our scale across multiple European markets and removing duplication of effort. As well as organisational, this is a cultural transformation, which is challenging, but hugely rewarding, allowing us to fully leverage our international pool of talent. 

You joined a panel at Total Telecom Congress on Open RAN and the future of 5G. From your perspective, what key challenges still need to be addressed for telcosto make the most Open RAN? 

At Vodafone, we view OpenRAN as a catalyst for change. We are asking our team to think differently as to how you build and manage networks, but also addressing common challenges. And by building a network with interoperability embedded at the foundation, we are creating the opportunity to work with new suppliers that may not be in the traditional telecoms ecosystem. These programmes are supported in parallel by two R&D labs opened over the last twelve months in Newbury and Malaga. 

The integration of these new companies, and adapting to new ways of working is incredibly challenging, but also perhaps the most exciting element of OpenRAN.  Bringing in new people, new ideas and more innovation can only be beneficial to the telecoms industry. 

Another significant challenge for OpenRAN is incentivising this nascent ecosystem. At Vodafone, we have made a commitment to transform 30% of mobile sites across Europe to OpenRAN technology by 2030. 

This is a significant commitment by Vodafone, and we look forward to seeing others in the industry make similar plans. The growth and maturity of the OpenRAN ecosystem will accelerate when there is incentive. A commitment of 30% of our European network provides a commercial target for OpenRAN companies to invest in themselves and to attract external investment in their operations.  

If others in the industry can provide the same incentive, the OpenRAN industry will go from strength to strength. 

Why do you attend events like Total Telecom Congress? 

After a few years of very limited in person events – I’m still really enjoying the opportunity to get out and meet old and new colleagues from across the industry. It really is the best way to get a sense of new developments in the sector.  

Total Telecom Congress took place in London this week. Next year’s edition will be moving to Amsterdam and will be held on 21st and 22nd November. Keep up to date with what’s happening via the event website.