TIP (Telecom Infra Project) has officially launched a project to define a low cost “killer” Remote Radio Head (RRH) design that can slot into O-RAN and OpenRAN-based radio networks.
Santiago Tenorio, the newly appointed Chair of TIP, said the Evenstar project will be ready to roll in mid-2020. He told TMN that the aim is to have a RRH that can be priced to the market at about $1,000.
Tenorio first announced TIP’s intention to define the radio unit at TIP Summit in November. He described it then as a “killer” radio because it hits a crucial sweetspot for operators.
The TIP-guided Evenstar project is currently working on delivering reference designs for a low cost, 160W Radio Unit in two current versions. These SKUs are for either 1800MHz or 700MHz band support, with 4T4R (4X40W) or 2T4R (2x80W) options. The Evenstar RUs will support the O-RAN CU-DU (Central Unit-Distributed Unit) architectural split known as 7.2. After the intitial reference design, the intention is to produce designs for more versions.
One of the project members, Mavenir, has been stating this year that one thing that would make its life easier would be to open up the market for low cost Radio Units. This would lower the overall Open RAN deployment costs of its customers and give them more flexibility of vendor partner. The project is being led within TIP by operators DT and Vodafone. DT has been a firm proponent of O-RAN since the early days, and Vodafone at the end of 2019 said that it would welcome tenders for radio sites across Europe from companies complaint with O-RAN specifications.
There’s a political angle too. Mavenir has also positioned this as a potential route to a US or Western radio unit manufacturer. At present, the majority of low cost radio unit makers are based in China or Taiwan, and with the current US administration looking to boost western 5G vendors a reference design for a low cost radio unit might enable someone to take up manufacturing in a different geography.
At a meeting with the FCC earlier this year, Mavenir executives told the Commission that “availability of radios in the US bands is a fundamental US weakness”. It also stated that there was a need for “low cost US managed volume manufacture of radios… with the OpenRAN interfaces.” It added that radio pricing in small volumes is also a market barrier to smaller vendors.
Other Evenstar programme members are Parallel Wireless, MTI, AceAxis and Facebook Connectivity.
The Evenstar programme is one example of closer links between TIP and O-RAN. Although there have been reports that the two groups might merge their O-RAN and OpenRAN programmes, it seems that what is on offer is a closer alignment between the two, but no merger. That means, for example, that TIP’s 5G NR Open RAN project will specify O-RAN interface specifications within its requirements documents.
TIP defines an architecture and reference designs for dis-aggregated network products, and creates test and integration centres to confirm commercial applicability of its requirements. O-RAN has also been working out actual specifications for elements within a decomposed architecture (such as the Radio Intelligent Controller, DU, CU and RRH) as well as the interfaces between them. It is also involved in making higher layers data available for automated operations and orchestration.
An announcement of closer liaison between the groups means that TIP will draw on O-RAN specifications,and will integrate, test and validate those in its labs before providing feedback into O-RAN.
The Evenstar project announcement was part of a wider series of announcements and updates from TIP, that you can read here.