Mavenir to market massive MIMO radio unit

Company wants to show that Open RAN is ready for Massive MIMO.

Mavenir is to market its own range of massive MIMO radio units in a bid to further unlock the Open RAN and vRAN market.

The radio units will be based on FPGA radio processing chips from Xilinx and manufactured by ODM partners but will be marketed as Mavenir units, Job Benson, VP, Head of Product Management, Radio at Mavenir, told TMN.

The units, which have been “witnessed” by six operators in Mavenir’s Bangalore facility, will enter mobile operators’ own lab tests through the year, and be generally available in Q4, the two companies said. The initial version will support 16 downlink layer, 64TRx operation with support for US C-Band frequencies. Further versions will have support for other midband frequencies, the companies said, as those bands come online in-market.

Job Benson, VP, Head of Product Management, Radio at Mavenir, said, “To make the radio commercially viable you have to think end-to-end and the ability to integrate. So that’s what we are also bringing into this announcement. On the Mavenir side what we’re bringing is the full vRAN software that resides in the cloud as well as the system integration capability so that we can integrate the whole solution end to end.”

“We’re bringing in a full OAM that will allow you to manage and orchestrate the networks as well, with full capabilities to meet customer expectation as well. And all of this is on our cloud native platforms and other platforms as well.

“Customers expect systems integration, everything from project management to maintenance of the m-MIMO and vRAN solution.”

One big attraction of Open RAN is that operators can mix and match across the RAN, if they so desire. So why is a vRAN software provider whose software runs on DU and CU functions getting involved in specifying and marketing radio units?

John Baker, SVP Business Development at Mavenir, said, “A lot of the reason we wanted to do this now is to kill off the discussion that Massive MIMO is not possible for Open RAN.”

Baker added, “This is a CatB radio as defined in O-RAN 7.2 interface, so there’s a small piece of the PHY that’s in the block for radio processing that resides on the Xilinx chips but the rest in the stack from the higher PHY is sitting on the DU.”

Mavenir wants to meet the perception that it does have a M-MIMO compatible solution and that the O-RAN specifications are mature enough for massive MIMO.

“We’re addressing the elephant in the room, which is that [open] radios from other tiers of vendors have not been available. We have been very public that it is difficult to buy radios off the shelf and be able to integrate them. That’s why Mavenir and others have invested to grow this ecosystem.”

Gilles Garcia, Wired and Wireless Group Business Lead and Senior Director at Xilinx, said that using FPGA – Xilinx labels it as a “custom adaptive SoC” – means the radio can still be adaptable to new beam forming algorithms and services in the network.

The companies would not share specifications on size, weight and power consumption, but Garcia said that the product would have to be “competitive”.

Ericsson and Huawei have each announced integrated 64TRx radio antenna units at around the 20kg mark. A recently announcement 64TRx C-band antenna from KMW was listed at 25kg, which Garcia pointed out is the weight limit for single operator installation.

Mavenir’s Benson said, ” When it comes to vRAN software we have all digital beam forming, 16 layers in the downlink, and we have advance receiver algorithms to improve the uplink as well. So it’s more than just elementary features, it’s very competitive from that perspective.”