Marvell announces DU for Facebook’s Evenstar programme

Chip company has SoC and L1 software design for an open DU.

Marvell has announced the first reference design for a DU for Evenstar, the Open RAN programme being run by Facebook Connectivity.

The reference design is the first Open RAN DU in the Evenstar programme, and provides a PHY Layer 1 implemention on Marvell’s Octeon Fusion-O baseband processor. The design also includes Octeon multi-core Digital Processing Units and SDKs which are designed to support L2/3 software from any partner. The DU specifications include support for 16 DL layers of 100 MHz, 100Gig ePCRI fronthaul, ORAN management and time synchronisation and am L1

Raj Singh, Executive Vice President of the Processors Business Group at Marvell, told TMN that the reference design is intended to allow new and different vendors to enter the Open RAN DU market.

He said, “With most of our customers we might provide the silicon, a reference board, some software, an SDK and then they do the rest. Here we are providing a design that is manufacturable by an ODM. So this is a true enabler. This is something that our customer would normally do but we are doing for Facebook Connectivity.

“We have gone further than we would normally do in software, providing a reference L1 implementation because we know that software is as much a challenge as the hardware itself. Making sure that software is available is something that FB Connectivity Group is cognisant of. And then integrators will also pull that together or do optimisation on the software provided to meet target cases for trials and deployments.”

Singh said that Marvell can bring new players and innovation into the Open RAN radio space by providing a merchant silicon design with the cost and power profile to get to commercial product into trials in the most practical way possible.

“If you look at what is available to ODMs outside of the Tier Ones they use FPGAS or a lookaside vRAN implementation with limitations in capacity, density and performance. The number of people who have robust, tested, proven merchant silicon that can do full capabilities inline – outside of the Tier Ones or some small cells – is us. This enables anybody who wants to deploy, whether in a vRAN or a standalone form factor, it enables that ODM startup to go and play in the market.”

Evenstar is a programme run by Facebook Connectivity, which itself is a member of the Telcom Infrastructure Project (TIP) Open RAN groups. Its aim is to build general-purpose RAN reference architectures for 4G and 5G networks in the OpenRAN ecosystem, and contribute those designs back into TIP.  The first Evenstar remote radio unit (RRU) product has now completed lab validation and will move on to field validation next.

A blogpost in December 2020 said that the programme, which has concentrated on the RRU element to date, said Facebook Connectivity was already working on developing the DU in both a standard format and in merchant silicon based version.

As well as designing this reference design for ODMs Marvell supplies its baseband chips to major Tier One and other vendors – Nokia is one publicly announcement partner – and last week announced it is behind a new DU launch from Fujitsu.