Vodafone Group, the parent of South Africa’s Vodacom Group, will work with Intel and other silicon vendors on designing its own chip architecture to drive innovation and efficiency in nascent OpenRAN network technology.
The initiative will be based at Vodafone’s digital innovation and R&D centre in Malaga, Spain, which opened on Monday.
Fifty people dedicated to OpenRAN will join 650 software engineers, architects and technicians in the Spanish city, where the British company is investing €225-million (R3.9-billion) over five years.
OpenRAN will allow operators to mix and match suppliers in their radio networks, aiming to weaken the grip Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia have on the global telecommunications equipment market with their proprietary technologies.
It creates interoperability between the software and hardware components of the radio access network, widening the pool of suppliers and lowering the barrier of entry.
Vodafone’s director of network architecture, Santiago Tenorio, said OpenRAN will enable the mobile operator to quickly add new digital services and to optimise networks using artificial intelligence.
OpenRAN creates interoperability between the software and hardware components of the radio access network, widening the pool of suppliers and lowering the barrier of entry.
Vodafone switched on the UK’s first 5G OpenRAN site carrying live customer traffic in Bath, western England, earlier this month, kicking off a deployment that will number 2 500 sites by 2027.
Tenorio said Vodafone would design silicon for ARM and Risc-V instruction sets as well as Intel x86, although he added that Intel was up to three years ahead of rivals and had already played a key role in OpenRAN’s development.
About 20 other vendors have joined the project, including Qualcomm, Broadcom, ARM and Lime Microsystems, with half of the total coming from Europe, the company said.