Vodafone, Qualcomm team for 5G OpenRAN chips and reference design

Vodafone, Qualcomm team for 5G OpenRAN chips and reference design

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

European networking giant Vodafone and Qualcomm Technologies have teamed up to develop reference designs for equipment makers developing Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) systems.

The reference designs will be designed to support emerging and established network infrastructure vendors develop high-performance, virtualized, interoperable, and modular 5G networks at scale, and will be based around new low power custom ASIC chips from Qualcomm. This will include support for massive MIMO (MaMIMO) antenna systems in the radio unit (RU) chip.

This will be particularly beneficial for smaller 5G equipment makers in Europe.

Massive MIMO smart antenna technology supports many more customers a faster and more reliable mobile connection from a single mast and Vodafone is working on smart antenna network configurations of up to 64T64R (64 antennas to transmit and 64 to receive between the base station and a user’s device) to boost capacity and bandwidth.

Qualcomm already provides chips for 5G customer premises equipment (CPE) and smartphones, including millimetre wave radio ad antenna front end. The move into the network chips is a dig at Nokia and Ericsson as the major suppliers of 5G network equipment with end-to-end proprietary technology, although Nokia works with Intel and Marvell on the chips and is adopting OpenRAN standards.

“Global supply chains need a diverse and vibrant vendor ecosystem to keep them moving in the event of a product shortage or a single supplier having difficulties,” said Santiago Tenorio, head of network architecture at Vodafone. “OpenRAN provides greater supplier diversity by allowing many more small vendors to compete on the world stage. Following the recent launch of our Open RAN Test and Validation Lab, we’re delighted to be partnering with Qualcomm Technologies to give smaller suppliers the best start.”

“Virtualized and Open RAN offer a significant opportunity to make 5G networks more flexible and cost efficient, transforming them into a platform for innovation,” said Dino Flore, vice president, technology at Qualcomm Europe. “The collaboration to develop comprehensive solutions from Open RAN RU with MaMIMO capabilities to high performance DU platforms provides an important step forward in speeding up the transition to open, virtualized and interoperable radio access networks.”

The reference designs, powered by Qualcomm® Radio Unit Platform with Massive MIMO capabilities and Qualcomm® Distributed Unit Platform, is expected to be published this year with trials expected to start in the second half of 2022, following detailed software development.;

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