UK-based Vodafone and Intel are giving themselves a bit longer to prepare Open RAN for prime time.

Nick Wood

March 4, 2024

3 Min Read
source: vodafone

With disaggregated network tech still yet to deliver on its great promise, Vodafone and Intel have agreed to extend their work together on advanced algorithms that will improve the performance and reduce the energy consumption of Open RAN silicon.

Working out of Vodafone's R&D lab in Málaga, Spain, the two companies – along with researchers from the Telecommunication Institute of University of Málaga – will specifically focus on how AI and machine learning (ML) can help with the development of ultra-efficient algorithms for 5G massive MIMO.

The fruits of this labour will be integrated into test silicon produced by Intel, creating new benchmarks that will pave the way for the development of commercial chips.

"Open RAN has opened the doors to unforeseen benefits through greater disaggregation," said Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone's director of network architecture. "Vodafone and its partners are now focused on realising this potential to reduce costs and improve energy savings while enhancing performance for our customers."

Embedding advanced algorithms across its network – including the core, edge, access, and radio – will enable Voda to meet future demand and scale up new 5G features such as network slicing, the telco said.

"Future radio networks rely on innovations that the industry invests in today," said Dan Rodriguez, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's network and edge solutions group. "Our work with Vodafone and other companies across the industry on next-gen technologies is critical and helps foster a broad, open ecosystem."

Achieving – or even exceeding – performance and feature parity with legacy RAN has long been the objective of the Open RAN movement. Intel's 4th Gen Xeon processors have been making headway in this direction, winning plenty of Open RAN customers, but the extended R&D partnership with Vodafone suggests there is still a gap that needs closing.

They have been working on it for more than a year already – news of their collaboration in what was then Voda's newly-opened R&D lab in Málaga first emerged in early 2022.

Vodafone and Intel's combined efforts on Open RAN can be traced back further. The US chip maker was mentioned in June 2021, when Voda announced the suppliers for its first commercial Open RAN network.

Intel's name cropped up again as one of the main partners when Vodafone switched on a handful of UK Open RAN sites in southwest England in late 2022, and then again the following summer when it scaled up this deployment to 2,500.

Intel wasn't mentioned when Vodafone began the commercial deployment of its Open RAN network in Romania last month, but the announcement did mention Dell's PowerEdge servers, which are available with either AMD or Intel Xeon processors, so it's more than likely there is some Intel involvement here.

As one of the earliest and biggest backers of Open RAN, Vodafone probably has a better idea than most about Open RAN's shortcomings. Its extensive collaboration with Intel – and in particular today's extension – is a sign that Voda thinks Intel has what it takes to address them.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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