Telefonica targets industrialised Open RAN “this year”

The operator has formed its team of vendors to bring Open RAN to market in UK, Germany, Spain and Brazil this year.

Telefonica has announced an ecosystem agreement that it says will progress the testing and industrialisation of Open RAN across its footprint this year.

A release from the company states it has agreed a collaboration with Altiostar, Gigatera Communications, Intel, Supermicro and Xilinx for the development of Open RAN technologies in 4G and 5G. The operator said it will launch 4G and 5G Open RAN trials in UK, Germany, Spain and Brazil this year.

Who is doing what?

Telefonica said it will be developing Distributed Units based on Intel’s FlexRAN reference platform which includes Intel XEON-based servers. Remote Radio Units (RRUs) would be connected to DUs using the O-RAN Aliance’s fronthaul interface specification.

The ecosystem appears to combine SuperMicro’s Intel-based servers with Altiostar’s virtual baseband technology for the DUs. Gigatera Communications is the company that owns KMW, the antenna and RF component manufacturer that designs Remote Radio Heads. Xilinx is an RF System on Chip provider and said it would be providing Telefónica with a “unique and flexible platform for radio, fronthaul, and acceleration for 4G and 5G networks.” 

Elements of this ecosystem echo parts, but not all, of Rakuten’s high profile vRAN deployment. That aligned KMW at the RRU end, with Altiostar vRAN software in the DU and CU, and Intel in the guts of the servers processing the vRAN workloads.

Telefonica’s statement said that it wants to define the necessary hardware and software components for an Open RAN deployment, including testing the complete solution in the lab and in the field and integrating the open RAN model as part of its overall virtualisation programme known as UNICA Next. 

The statement said that the motivation for introducing Open RAN is a more flexible operational environment where it can upgrade elements of the radio network individually, and deliver updates in a faster and more targeted fashion. It can also take advantage of a radically simplified hardware platform in the distributed or centralised elements of the RAN. Finally, the distributed architecture, combined with the virtualised and open nature of Open RAN means the operator feels it can expose RAN capabilities in an easier fashion to aid MEC rollouts, when the time comes.

It said, “Edge-computing applications running in the Telco cloud can benefit from the strong capillarity of the access network, hence tailoring the service behavior to the instantaneous user conditions as well as the status of the live network.”

Telefonica took a position as a strategic investor in Altiostar in recent months, but it has also worked on Open RAN trials and deployments with the likes of Parallel Wireless and Mavenir. It may be too early to say if this release is a statement of intent to work more closely with Altiostar, or if other vendors will play in certain areas.