October 10, 2023
Operator Vodafone has added to its recent salvo of Open RAN announcements, announcing a collaboration with Arm for a new chipset based on open architecture.
New platforms loaded with Arm-based processors optimised for use in Open RAN base stations will be developed with enough compute power to support advanced 5G services and provide advances in energy efficiency, claims the announcement.
Vodafone proclaims that through the collaboration with Arm it is committed to enabling the competitive landscape for Open RAN chipsets and the associated ecosystem by providing smaller companies with the necessary testing and verification support to get involved in using them. This move also has significant competitive implications for Intel in the telecoms context.
In terms of actually producing the chipsets, specialist system and silicon firms SynaXG and Ampere Computing have been drafted in to test and validate the Arm-based Open RAN silicon, while Fujitsu will provide the RAN software.
Testing of the chipsets will begin this year in vendors’ laboratories to nail down the compute platform and silicon integration, and the plan is in Q1 2024 it will be sent to Vodafone’s test facilities at its R&D centre in Málaga, as well as its Newbury base in the UK.
The fruits of this collaboration will be made available to the entire industry, ‘transforming networks from pure communications systems into disaggregated and open platforms for innovation,’ claims the release.
“Vodafone’s Open RAN leadership coupled with the power efficiency of the Arm-based architecture, will widen the chip and software ecosystem,” said Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone Director of Network Architecture. “By expanding the number of competing best-in-class suppliers, we can drive greater innovation, energy efficiency and security for the benefit of our customers.”
The project is held up as method to ‘fast-track the development of new platforms for Open RAN’, and there is also an emphasis on how more energy efficient chipsets will help Vodafone with its net zero goals. It comes amid a flurry of Open RAN flavoured announcements from the operator, coinciding with the Fyuz conference currently running in Madrid.
Yesterday saw two such releases. One was the announcement of a joint pilot with Orange ‘with the first real-life experience of 4G calls’ over a cluster of shared commercial network sites based on Open RAN in Romania. It also announced a team up with Nokia to run a commercial 5G Open RAN pilot in Italy for the first time.
It’s easy to lose track of what happens exactly to the multitude of pilots and trials in the telecoms industry once they have been announced. But Vodafone’s commentary alongside this latest salvo certainly signals its evangelism for Open RAN in general. Perhaps more significantly, it also appears to be reserving a big role for the technology in its upcoming 100,000-site tender, as reported by Light Reading yesterday.
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