Vodafone shows how Open RAN platform can boost 5G capacity

Vodafone, Cohere TechnologiesVMwareCapgemini EngineeringIntel and Telecom Infra Project (TIP) have demonstrated how a powerful new Open Radio Access Network (RAN) platform can boost the capacity of 5G where multiple customers are using the same site.
Vodafone 5G network
The successful trial is the latest step in building a cost-effective Open RAN ecosystem that will benefit Vodafone customers.

Francisco Martin, Head of Open RAN at Vodafone, said: “This initiative boosts capacity for customers when they need it most, reduces the need for expensive hardware by a third and cuts down on energy consumption. These time and cost savings will ultimately encourage the introduction of new, innovative services.”

The companies increased the capacity of a 5G cell site by two-fold using a programmable, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) supporting a mix of Open RAN components from multiple vendors.

The companies showed the first demonstration of 5G Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) – providing more capacity at a single cell site – running on a RIC located at a multi-vendor Open RAN test site. MU-MIMO apportions ample bandwidth to individual users connected to the same mobile site.

Based on the performance of Cohere’s Spectrum Multiplier MU-MIMO scheduler in the trial, when the technique is commercially deployed in a low-band (e.g. 700MHz) network, users will benefit from up to 2x the capacity achieved using traditional MIMO. This software can be extended to Massive MIMO in mid-band (e.g. 3.5GHz) networks to push capacity gains towards 4-5x.

The system tested by the companies reduces the need for expensive and energy-consuming hardware within a mobile base station by up to a third. It also supports new advanced radio applications for critical business and consumer applications.

VMware provides an O-RAN aligned RIC platform supporting Open APIs for 3rd party applications and implements the open interface, which has been enhanced with pre-standard capabilities, towards the baseband.

Capgemini’s software includes the required baseband radio functions to execute MU-MIMO related actions.

Intel’s FlexRAN software delivers the 5G New Radio (NR) physical layer and contributes with the COTS hardware to host both VMware’s RIC platform and Capgemini’s baseband.

TIP OpenRAN launched RAN Intelligence and Automation (RIA) to become the industry’s vehicle to aggregate MNO use cases for RIC platforms and to develop, test and deploy specific solutions for these use cases. Initiatives like this collaboration will stimulate the ecosystem, accelerate early adoption of RIC in Open RAN deployments and catalyse contributions to O-RAN specifications.