Vodafone and Qualcomm Technologies joined hands to develop the technical blueprint for more equipment suppliers to build the 5G networks using Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology.
The move aims to lower the entry barrier for many companies and drive diversification of network equipment vendors.
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. 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 of 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.”
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, QUALCOMM Europe.
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.
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.
This is a major strategic milestone in accelerating the adoption of Open RAN in Europe. It is notable that the announcement comes only three months after major European mobile operators joined forces to accelerate the adoption of Open RAN technology in an attempt to follow the footsteps of their North American counterparts.
The blueprint created by Qualcomm and Vodafone will help mobile operators guarantee infrastructure modularity, avoid vendor lock-ins, and will make it easier for them to swap network elements without fears of compromising the network performance, Malik Saadi, Vice President at global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research, said.
ABI Research predicts that in Europe, shipments of Open RAN equipment will exceed 40 percent of total RAN equipment deployed in 2026. Shipments of Open RAN MaMIMO in the region will exceed 25 percent of the total MaMIMO equipment deployed in 2025.