Vodafone and Qualcomm are to join forces to develop the technical blueprint for more equipment suppliers to help build 5G networks using O-RAN.
The move aims to lower the entry barrier for many companies and drive diversification of network equipment vendors.
In particular, the reference designs will be designed to support emerging and established network infrastructure vendors develop high-performance, virtualised, interoperable, and modular 5G networks at scale. This aims to make cellular infrastructure more innovative and competitive.
Customers will benefit as Vodafone and other telecommunications companies mix and match hardware and software from a choice of suppliers to more easily extend 5G networks in specific geographical areas where they are most needed.
Today, where two or more suppliers are used in a network, each one is deployed in a cluster, and the points at which they meet are often the most challenging in terms of performance.
Santiago Tenorio, head of network architecture, Vodafone, said, “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. Open RAN provides greater supplier diversity by allowing many more small vendors to compete on the world stage. Following the recent launch of our new Open RAN Test and Validation Lab, combining the creativity of Vodafone Engineering with that of our partners, we’re delighted to be partnering with Qualcomm Technologies to give smaller suppliers the best start.”
“Virtualised 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, QUALCOMM Europe, Inc. “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, virtualised and interoperable radio access networks.”
Gerardo Giaretta, senior director, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. said, “Qualcomm Technologies aims to deliver cutting-edge technology for virtualised, flexible and interoperable 5G infrastructure across the globe. We look forward to expanding our efforts with Vodafone to support flexible and scalable 5G RAN deployments. Ecosystem collaborations like this play a critical role in allowing operators and industry verticals to more quickly and easily add 5G network coverage and capacity where and when it is needed most.”
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.
Massive MIMO gives many more customers a faster and more reliable mobile connection from a single mast.
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 ensure there is ample capacity to connect multiple users at any time of the day.