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Vodafone and Intel working on OpenRAN tech

by on31 January 2022

Want to break Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia’s grip

Vodafone has teamed up with Intel and other silicon vendors to design its own chip architecture for nascent OpenRAN network technology.

The move is part of a cunning plan to break the grip that Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia have over the global telecoms equipment market with their proprietary technologies

OpenRAN allows operators to mix and match suppliers in their radio networks and its development has taken on greater prominence since some governments either banned or discouraged the use of China's Huawei in national networks.

Vodafone's initiative, based at its digital innovation and R&D centre in Malaga, will also contribute to the European Union's efforts to bolster its chip industry and double its share of global production to 20 per cent after it lost ground to Asian and US suppliers.

Vodafone's director of network architecture Santiago Tenorio told Reuters that OpenRAN would enable the mobile operator to quickly add new digital services and to optimise networks using artificial intelligence (AI).

"It will bring disruptive innovation back to the network," he said.

OpenRAN creates interoperability between the software and hardware components of the radio access network, widening the pool of suppliers and lowering the barrier of entry.

Vodafone switched on Britain's first 5G OpenRAN site carrying live customer traffic in Bath, western England, earlier this month, kicking off a deployment that will number 2,500 sites by 2027.

The R&D centre - the first dedicated to advancing OpenRAN chip architecture - will bring 50 people dedicated to OpenRAN together with 650 software engineers, architects and technicians in the Spanish city, where the British company is investing 225 million euros over five years. It opens on Monday.

Tenorio said Vodafone would design silicon for ARM and RISC-V instruction sets as well as Intel x86, although he added that Intel was up to three years ahead of rivals and had already played a key role in OpenRAN's development.

About 20 other vendors have joined the project, including Qualcomm, Broadcom, ARM and Lime Microsystems, with half of the total coming from Europe, the company said.


Last modified on 01 February 2022
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