Vodafone fast-tracks Arm-based chipsets for Open RAN

Vodafone fast-tracks Arm-based chipsets for Open RAN

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By Peter Clarke

Mobile phone service provider Vodafone has announced it is speeding up the development of chipsets based on the Arm architecture for use in Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN). At the same time Vodafone told Reuters it continues to work with Intel to create a chipset architecture for Open RAN.

In February 2022 Vodafone announced it would be developing Open RAN processors based on the x86, Arm and RISC-V instruction sets. The work was due to be focused at its R&D center in Malaga, Spain, where Vodafone said it planned to spend €225 million (about $250 million) over five years. Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone director of network architecture, said at the time that Intel was up to three years ahead of rivals and had already played a key role in Open RAN’s development.

Vodafone appears to be favouring the use of the Arm architecture for reasons of superior energy efficiency. However, it is possible that Intel is still involved either as a co-designer of chips using the Arm architecture and/or as a provider of foundry manufacturing services.

One of the core strengths of OpenRAN is that it separates the hardware and software at the mobile basestation. This allows a mix of equipment from different vendors as well as the use of in-house developed equipment.

Vodafone said the next generation of Open RAN platforms would have enough compute power to support advanced 5G services.

The company said it is working with SynaXG of Singapore and Ampere Computing to test and validate Arm-based Open RAN silicon, as well as Fujitsu which will provide the RAN software. That testing will move to Malaga, Spain, and Newbury, England, in 1Q24.

Vodafone added that the use of more energy efficient chipsets will help the company achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

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