In a strategic move to meet the surging demand for faster and more eco-friendly mobile connectivity, Vodafone has unveiled ambitious plans to expedite the development of cutting-edge platforms for Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) using the robust Arm architecture.
The forthcoming platforms will integrate high-performance Arm-based processors, meticulously optimized for application in Open RAN base stations. These processors will boast sufficient computational power to cater to advanced 5G services, addressing the growing need for enhanced capacity. Notably, these processors adhere to the Open RAN principles, utilizing industry-standard servers and significantly elevating energy efficiency.
Open RAN technology facilitates software-driven networks, expanding the vendor supply chain and fostering a climate of innovation. Collaborating with Arm, Vodafone is committed to empowering a competitive landscape for Open RAN chipsets and its associated ecosystem. The telecommunications giant is extending support to smaller enterprises, providing essential testing and verification support to enable their participation in the forthcoming generation of networks.
Currently, Vodafone is collaborating with specialist system and silicon firms, SynaXG and Ampere Computing, to validate Arm-based Open RAN silicon. Fujitsu will contribute the RAN software crucial for the project. Testing is set to commence this year within vendor laboratories to validate the compute platform and silicon integration.
The testing phase will further encompass 5G commercial Open RAN software from Fujitsu before transitioning to Vodafone’s dedicated test facilities in Malaga, Spain, and Newbury, UK, by the first quarter of 2024. Subsequently, other vendors will also participate in the validation process.
Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone Director of Network Architecture, expressed his optimism, stating, “Vodafone’s Open RAN leadership coupled with the power efficiency of the Arm-based architecture will widen the chip and software ecosystem.” He emphasized that this expansion of competitive suppliers would stimulate innovation, energy efficiency, and security, ultimately benefiting the customers.
This collaborative partnership aims to disseminate its results across the industry, transforming traditional networks into disaggregated and open platforms for innovation. The adoption of more energy-efficient chipsets is aligned with Vodafone’s objective of achieving net-zero emissions by 2040.
In a parallel development, Vodafone had previously announced a partnership with U.S. chipmaker Intel in 2022 to design its chip architecture. Santiago Tenorio confirmed that Vodafone and Intel would collaboratively produce chipsets at its campus in Málaga, Spain. These chipsets will be available for smaller third-party vendors to test their algorithms without significant financial investments in silicon.
In Italy, Vodafone is actively engaged in a pilot with Finland-based telecom equipment maker Nokia, validating Nokia’s Open RAN solution for its functionality and performance equivalent to purpose-built RAN.