Vodafone and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. announced that they are jointly cooperating with major silicon provider Marvell to accelerate the performance and adoption of 5G Open Radio Access Networks (RAN) across Europe.
In addition to Open RAN’s unique multi-vendor benefits, which allow operators to mix and match different software and hardware, this latest breakthrough also significantly improves the performance of future networks to even outperform existing single-supplier radio networks.
By incorporating Marvell’s advanced System-on-a-Chip (SoC) technology, specifically adapted for Open RAN, into the latest standard Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS) servers, smartphone users are given a fast and reliable 5G connection using new open architecture.
The Marvell chipset – called the OCTEON Fusion® processor – works by taking on the heavy lifting calculations of the standard central processing unit (CPU) in existing virtualized mobile networks. Combined with Samsung’s virtualized RAN software, it speeds up the data processing required for a wide array of complex radio network functions, enabling the Open RAN system to deliver features, security and performance on par with traditional mobile radio networks, with further improvements to follow. This will also improve the energy efficiency of mobile sites by reducing the number of CPU cores required.
The specialised silicon chips commonly known as Accelerators, tailored for radio networks, can help to better handle the vast capacity demands in densely populated urban areas with enormous volumes of mobile traffic, as opposed to solely relying on a General Purpose Processor (GPP). Accelerators can deliver Massive MIMO – the technology developed to serve many customers in dense urban areas such as shopping centres, sports arenas, and business parks. This ‘acceleration’ in the Distributed Unit (DU) of the Open RAN architecture enhances the overall speed and reliability of any Open RAN mobile site.
Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer of Vodafone, said: “Vodafone and Samsung are combining their technical leadership and embracing open standards with Marvell’s advanced silicon chipset. Together, we can deliver an Open RAN system with features and performance that rivals that of traditional mobile radio networks now, and can better them in future, whilst bringing much needed resilience to the vendor supply chain.”
Paul (Kyungwhoon) Cheun, President and Head of Networks Business at Samsung Electronics, said: “Samsung firmly believes that close partnerships with industry leaders expand the boundaries of technology. This collaboration with Vodafone and Marvell will foster the Open RAN environment, through which Samsung will continue to lead the expansion of the ecosystem.”
Raghib Hussain, President, Products and Technologies of Marvell, said: “Marvell is excited to broaden its strategic collaboration with Vodafone and Samsung with a shared commitment to enable Open RAN systems that meet the high expectations of established mobile radio networks. Our solution, which is O-RAN optimized and built on Marvell’s industry-leading 5G silicon, enables all the benefits of Open RAN without compromising features or performance.”
Vodafone, Samsung and Marvell have committed to continue to work together, and with the rest of the industry within the O-RAN Alliance, to make the separation of hardware and software the de facto standard. While the companies work towards this aim, it is essential to have options and flexibility to be able to use different suppliers. This collaboration is a major step towards an enriched ecosystem, which promotes innovation and helps in speeding up Open RAN technology adoption and maturity.
Today’s announcement also builds on Vodafone’s opening of Europe’s first dedicated R&D centre earlier this year for the advancement of microchip architecture to power Open RAN networks. The centre, housed in Vodafone’s new digital skills hub in Málaga, Spain, will be used by nearly 30 specialist vendors and is focused on establishing a strong ecosystem for silicon design in Europe.