MWC Barcelona Unfurls a Red Carpet for RAN Announcements

March 01, 2023 by Jake Hertz

Some of the industry’s biggest names, including Intel, Samsung, ADI, Marvell, Nokia, and Fujitsu, took the MWC stage to release new RAN products.

This week is the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, considered one of the largest global events for the connectivity industry. A show of this magnitude has historically been a launching ground for a slew of new industry announcements, and this year has been no exception. This include's AMD's pre-MWC 5G chip announcement last week. Specifically, MWC has ushered in a wave of radio access network (RAN)-based announcements from some of the most prominent players in the industry.


Open RAN ecosystem

Illustration of an Open RAN ecosystem, including radio units (RUs), distributed units (DUs), and centralized units (CUs). Image courtesy of Nokia


In this article, we’ll round up some of the most newsworthy RAN announcements from the show thus far.


Intel Unveils Processors With vRAN Boost

Intel drew the spotlight at MWC Barcelona this week when it unveiled a range of products and solutions aimed at accelerating the transition of 5G networks from hardware to software-defined platforms. 


Intel Scalable Xeon processor

Intel’s 4th Gen solution for vRAN. Image courtesy of Intel


The company’s biggest hardware launch was the 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors with Intel vRAN Boost to accelerate the virtualization of RAN and reduce communication service providers' total cost of ownership. According to Intel, by fully integrating vRAN acceleration into the Intel Xeon SoC, it has effectively eliminated the need for an external accelerator. The new solution is said to provide 2x the capacity of the previous generation within the same power envelope and up to 20% power savings with integrated acceleration. 

Overall, Intel expects the 4th Gen Xeon Scalable processors to match or surpass the performance-per-watt of the best layer 1 SoC accelerator cards in the market today. Additionally, the 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors enable the industry's first 1 Tbps of performance for the 5G user plane function (UPF) workload within a single dual-socket server. 


ADI and Marvell Team Up for 5G Massive MIMO Reference Design

Analog Devices (ADI) and Marvell Technology made headlines at MWC Barcelona with the announcement of a new 5G massive MIMO (mMIMO) reference design platform.

From a high level, the goal of this platform is to speed up the time to market for advanced mMIMO radio units and increase support for Open RAN through a quality reference design. Notably, the platform includes ADI’s RadioVerse Transceiver SoC alongside Marvell's OCTEON 10 Fusion 5G baseband processor, which is the industry's first 5 nm digital beamforming solution for 5G.

The ADRV9040 RadioVerse Transceiver SoC was included thanks to its digital capabilities, such as linearization algorithms that boost power amplifier efficiency and performance, as well as digital channel filters that reduce interface rates. The OCTEON 10 Fusion 5G baseband processor, on the other hand, comes with dedicated accelerators for high-efficiency beamforming algorithms as well as dedicated processors for the low PHY baseband. By combining ADI's RadioVerse Transceiver SoC and Marvell's OCTEON 10 Fusion processor, the companies claim they’ve developed a solution that supports the entire signal chain and delivers exception radio unit system efficiency. 

The reference design supports a 64T64R configuration while also supporting 32 transmit and receive antennas (32T32R) with 400 MHz of operational bandwidth and 300 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth. 


Samsung Introduces vRAN 3.0

Samsung had its own news this week, with the announcement of the next phase of its 5G virtualized RAN (vRAN) technology roadmap. The company used MWC to announce the release of new software for its virtualized RAN (vRAN) that will improve performance and power savings. 


Samsung’s vRAN roadmap

Samsung’s vRAN roadmap. Image courtesy of Samsung


The software, called vRAN 3.0, includes several new features designed to meet the needs of forward-looking operators, such as increased bandwidth support for Massive MIMO radios and automated networks with CPU Core Sleep Mode, which reduces power consumption by automatically putting the CPU in "sleep mode" during low data traffic. Additionally,vRAN 3.0 will include Adaptive Core Allocation features, which work to assign a proportional number of CPU cores to the number of active cells at setup. This ultimately results in reduced power consumption during periods of low data traffic. Other noteworthy performance optimization capabilities include 200 MHz three-cell support and modem algorithm optimizations.

The company plans to launch the new vRAN capabilities to global operators, beginning its rollout in North America in the first half of 2023. 


Nokia’s anyRAN and Cloud RAN SmartNIC Simplify RAN Deployment

This week, Nokia announced a new concept called anyRAN, designed to offer flexibility in building and evolving radio access networks for mobile network operators and enterprises. 

A software solution, anyRAN allows operators to choose from a range of hardware, cloud infrastructure, and data center solutions to run Nokia’s Cloud RAN service—a disaggregated RAN architecture. anyRAN supports Nokia AirScale base stations and Nokia AirFrame servers as well as any partner's Cloud and server infrastructure. 


Cloud RAN and classic RAN in mobile networks

Cloud RAN and classic RAN in mobile networks. Image courtesy of Nokia


Additionally, to support these high-performance solutions, Nokia has developed the Cloud RAN SmartNIC, a layer one, in-line acceleration card that uses dedicated and optimized silicon technology for more energy efficiency and higher performance. The SmartNIC can integrate easily with all leading cloud or server infrastructures.

Nokia believes this new solution will enable a mix of purpose-built, hybrid, and fully cloud-based RAN solutions, making deployments less complex. 


Fujitsu Announces 5G vRAN for Telecom Operators

Our final news of this roundup comes from Fujitsu, which announced a new 5G vRAN solution at MWC Barcelona this week.

The new solution, which was developed as part of the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem project, combines Fujitsu’s virtualized centralized unit (CU) and distributed unit (DU) alongside NVIDIA's A100X GPU technology. The solution uses NVIDIA's A100X GPU processing engine for physical layer processing at the base station, allowing parallel processing of virtualized base stations and edge applications on the same server. Doing this creates a flexible, all-in-one device configuration that can be scaled up with various functions. 

Fujitsu’s new vRAN architecture

Fujitsu’s new vRAN architecture. Image courtesy of Fujitsu


The solution also provides improved radio unit (RU) capacity and processing power, enabling telecommunication carriers to build high-quality, open networks that can handle high-load data processing and future improvements in antenna technologies. The system will be offered to telecom operators worldwide starting in March 2023.