The GSMA opening its Americas show in Las Vegas prompted a clutch of announcements in the mobile nework space. With Open RAN always a political point-scorer in US wireless circles, it is perhaps not surprising that there were a clutch of Open RAN related annoucements. We open a book on this week’s Open RAN releases.
Qualcomm updates (sort of)
First off we have Qualcomm, which said that its next generation of silicon for base station and radio units is now sampling. There are two packages. The first is an accelerator card – the X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card – that developers can take to provide in-line acceleration for upper L1 processing within a DU (Distributed Unit). This card was announced in June 2021, at which point it was known as the 5G DU X100 Accelerator Card (Qualcomm seems to have dropped the DU from the name). This week’s PR said that OEMs are now testing and verifying the card in products, so it acted as an update really that things are progressing.
One partner that we already knew about was Mavenir, which announced in February this year that it was working with Qualcomm to integrate the lower layer chip with its vDU software. HPE also committed to slot Qualcomm’s platform to provide acceleration for its vDU, with the cards running inline in its ProLiant DL110 Telco servers.
Mavenir was also an already-announced partner for the other half of Qualcomm’s announcement this week – the availability for sampling of the QRU100 5G RAN Platform. Again, back in February Mavenir said that it was using Qualcomm chips to exand the capability of its Open Beam RU reference designs. (Open Beam is a portfolio of Mavenir-design RUs that are available to OEMs to license and manufacture – it is Mavenir’s attempt to spur manufacturing at the RU end of the O-RAN ecosystem).
At that point Mavenir said its Qualcomm-based solutions would be available in 2023 – and this week’s release stuck to that timeline for anticpated commercial solutions from Qualcomm’s partners.
Another company already with a partnership in place for the QRU100 is Fujitsu, which announced in February that it would be developing a DRU (a DU and RU combined) using Qualcomm’s platform for acceleration.
Qualcomm and Radisys
As well as its macro RU and DU chipsets (above) Qualcomm is targetting open small cells with its FSM platform, which has long been the workhorse for 4G small cells from a range of players. This week Radisys said that it is integrating its 5G R16 compliant, Connect RAN 5G CU/DU software stack onto the latest Qualcomm FSM200xx 5G RAN Platform for Small Cells.
That means OEMs can take Qualcomm’s baseband and Radisys software into a complete solution – proof that Qualcomm will continue to provide a stiff benchmark for competitor SoC designs from newer players like Picocom and EdgeQ in the open small cell market. It should be said, of course, that Picocom has also validated its design with Radisys’ RAN software platform, with Picocom L1 interfacing to L2 and L3 software over the Small Cell Forum FAPI interface.
NEC adds DU CU software, RIC and rApps
NEC, perhaps best known in the O-RAN space so for its RUs (it provides them to Rakuten) and for its System Integrator role with Telefonica, introduced a vCU-vDU software suite. Although the software now gives NEC and end-to-end Open RAN solution (RU-DU-CU) the company said that it will continue to offer operators “with choice in every category with best-of-breed solutions and services from both NEC and its partners in Open RAN radio units, software, open transport, converged packet core, automation, and orchestration.”
It also said that it will integrate this software suite with its existing and new partners. One advantage it will hold is that the virtualized CU/DU features will be pre-tested to integrate with NEC RUs, although NEC said it is also certified to be interoperable with other third party RUs. With an SMO capability and an upcoming near real time RIC and rApps, NEC is putting the whole bit together.
“NEC is committed to being radically open, allowing customers to select the best solutions for their needs,” said Patrick Lopez, NEC’s vice president of product management for 5G. “We’re giving our customers another option of a pre-integrated, automated vCU/vDU solution … while benefiting from a virtualized Open RAN compliant system. The NEC OvRAN vCU/vDU software suite is built to bring operators into the cloud native world with no compromise on performance or quality.”
As you would expect from a newly launched suite of virtualised software, NEC said it “leverages the benefits of cloud-native architecture, including horizontal and vertical scaling, auto-healing, and redundancy.”
Fujitsu introduces Virtuora SMO
Fujitsu announced a Service Management and Orchestration platform for Open RAN networks, with functions including a non real time RIC and Network Slice Management Functions (NSMF) and Network Slice Subnet Management Functions (NSSMF). The platform can be deployed in the O-RAN specified O-Cloud and is designed to enable automation of Open RAN elements.
Parallel and Amazon EKS
Parallel Wireless, which radically downsized earlier this year but whose CEO Steve Papa has always said the company remains in the game, said that “it will work with AWS to deploy its cloud-native Any G (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G) wireless network solution leveraging Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) Anywhere. Amazon EKS has also been named as the company’s Kubernetes management platform.” With Robin.io (which was certainly once a Parallel partner) now in the Rakuten Symphony umbrella, along with Altiostar, perhaps we see this as a sign that Amazon EKS will become a platform of choice for vRAN workload management, outside of that ecosystem. Dish, for example, is using AWS as a platform for its vRAN from Mavenir and Altiostar, with Samsung also saying that it is committed to supporting Dish’s deployment environments.
Rakuten Symphony’s new hardware and DU
Symphony said that its server platform for a far edge-based DU is now available for anyone to take and deploy. Rakuten Mobile is (as you’d expect) the first big customer, and it says it will deploy 10,000 new 4G sites and 13,000 new 5G sites, using the platform, within 10 months. The product is deisgn with Intel. and combines containerised cell site routing functionality from Juniper and a Distributed Unit (vDU from Altiostar) on a single general purpose server platform.
The server and DU, now known as “Symware NGDU” is based on the Intel Xeon D processor with the Intel vRAN Accelerator ACC100 adapter, Intel Ethernet Controller E810, and Intel’s FlexRAN reference software. It’s also ruggedised and waterproof so it can be sited outdoors.
The device can be sold as a bare metal option, with telcos providing their own supporting OAM environment, or it can be sold with Symphony’s cloud-native Symworld platform for OSS. Both options are being sold on an as-a-service basis.