Vodafone intros very small 5G network at MWC 2023

Vodafone announced a prototype 5G network built on a Raspberry Pi personal computer and advanced silicon chipset.
Vodafone 5G network on Raspberry Pi personal computerVodafone said this industry-first concept will enable small businesses and households to receive more 5G coverage and increase capacity according to their needs. Customers can set up very own, affordable, and portable private 5G mobile network.

Vodafone aims to offering 5G-based mobile private networks (MPNs) to 22 million small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and an additional fast broadband link to homes across Europe.

Vodafone is looking at offering mobile private networks to small business owners whilst lowering the entry cost and reducing the resources needed to experience new digital services. The 5G network on a Raspberry Pi is portable and no bigger than a home Wi-Fi router, meaning a customer could instantly set up their very own, private network in a public place such as a coffee shop, or extend the coverage of the public network to a remote location like a basement.

Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone’s Director of Network Architecture, said: “We looked at what Raspberry Pi did for computing, in terms of making it more accessible to people of all ages, and we wanted to do the same with 5G.”

The new system combines a Raspberry Pi 4 with a small 5G compatible embeddable software-defined radio (SDR) circuit board, made by UK-based specialist, Lime Microsystems. This SDR Board can turn any computing platform into a miniature 5G base station.

The resulting system can then be used either as part of a dedicated private network, an extension of a larger MPN or connected to Vodafone’s public network like any other base station. The board design is fully compliant to Open Radio Access Network (RAN) standards, which means it can be used with any computing machine capable of running Open RAN compatible software.

Vodafone’s European R&D Centre in Malaga, which has a team of engineers for the advancement of silicon chips to power new Open RAN innovations, has developed the concept. These new networks are built on a mix of hardware and software from multiple vendors rather than single-supplier networks, leading to greater innovation and a strengthened vendor supply chain.

Vodafone is demonstrating the 5G network on a Raspberry Pi at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, starting Monday 27 February.

Vodafone had over 330 million mobile customers, more than 28 million fixed broadband customers, and 21 million TV customers. Vodafone is a world leader in the Internet of Things (IoT), connecting over 155 million devices and platforms as of 31 December 2022.