Vodafone is partnering with more than 20 chip vendors in a project designed to advance the development of Open RAN processors at the firm’s new European R&D centre in Spain.
The facility in Malaga will specialise in developing new services based on Internet of Things (IoT), Edge Computing, Mobile Private Networks (MPN) and, of course, Open RAN.
Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, ARM and Lime are among those to partner with Vodafone, with half of participants coming from Europe.
The Newbury-based operator has been one of the most vocal supporters of Open RAN which it hopes will enhance its 5G infrastructure and assist with the enforced removal of Huawei equipment from its network.
The Radio Access Network (RAN) market has traditionally been dominated by a few major players who offer highly integrated cell sites comprising radio, hardware, and software. This approach has made it difficult for operators to mix and match innovations and has proved to be a significant barrier to entry for smaller vendors.
Open RAN is a vendor-neutral approach with standardised designs that allow a variety of firms to supply hardware and software. Operators believe this can increase innovation, reduce costs, and reduce dependency on the ‘big three’ of Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia.
The project to develop Open RAN chips will further reduce this dependency and contribute to European efforts to increase the continent’s share of silicon production.
In an interview with Reuters, Vodafone confirmed that it would work on chips for ARM and RISC-V instruction sets as well as Intel x86 architecture. In total, the Malaga facility will host 50 people dedicated to Open RAN development, along with 650 software engineers, architects, and technicians as part of a €225 million investment over five years.
A further European R&D centre is expected to open in Dresden, Germany next year.
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