There has been an ongoing call from major operators for greater diversity in Open RAN silicon solutions. Vodafone recently announced development partnerships with Qualcomm and Marvel, along with upstart EdgeQ. Rakuten is staying with its provider Intel, partly because that company’s next generation of processors will support more advanced processing capabilties, and also because of its sunk investment in the FlexRAN software platform.
These aren’t the only players on the block, however. Picocom, a company with a focus on small cell solutions, has announced that South Korean company SOLiD will build its next generation of 5G Open RAN Radio Units (O-RUs) using Picocom’s PC802 chip and software. TMN understands that the Picocom SoC solution will displace SOLiD’s previous FPGA-based product design. SoCs in RUs are cheaper than FPGA, and also require less power and heat dissipation within the product. Recent RUs from contract manufacturer Jabil were based on FPGA solutions from AMD(Xilinx), although the hardware reference design that Jabil used is intended to enable an easy migration to SoC-based solutions.
“SOLiD is at the forefront of in-building cellular technology. Partnering with Picocom to purchase PC802 devices and license its 5G NR O-RU software gives us the confidence that SOLiD will maintain the edge over our competition. This agreement will enable us to be competitive in the ever-evolving Open RAN market with our next-generation O-RUs,” said HyunChae Kim, Vice President at SOLiD. SOLiD has a well known line of DAS products which include a variety of distributed remote units. The Open RAN section on its website says, “Coming soon”.
The PC802 solution can power an RU, to provide inline PHY in a DU server, or within an integrated small cell, with software support for 4G and 5G. It was launched about a year ago, and although the SOLiD announcement is for an O-RU, Picocom President Peter Claydon recently TMN that it now has several engagements for small cell solutions, with a growing number of potential customer engagements. That, he said, is being driven by “actual operator deployments” of integrated small cell solutions, known as Split 0 or Split 2 versions, as well as continued interest in the RU-DU 7.2 split.