Qualcomm and Vodafone Team for Next-gen 5G O-RAN Effort
The two companies will continue to collaborate on efforts to expand 5G Open Radio Access Network (RAN) across Europe.
Qualcomm and Vodafone recently announced that they will collaborate to test and develop infrastructure solutions that will be based on Qualcomm’s Open RAN (O-RAN) devices that are claimed to be energy efficient and high performing: the QRU100 5G RAN Platform, and the X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card. Qualcomm began sampling both cards in Q3 2022.
Vodafone is the leading telecommunications provider in Europe and has publicly committed to improving the environmental sustainability of its networks and brings expertise in large-scale network deployment to the partnership. The company envisions a future network that will support wireless high-bandwidth applications such as virtual and augmented reality.
The two companies plan to unveil more details on their 5G O-RAN infrastructure solution at the World Mobile Conference 2023 in Barcelona.
QRU100 5G RAN platform and the X100 5G RAN accelerator card. Image used courtesy of Qualcomm
The Qualcomm X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card is an “inline accelerator” PCIe card that can be plugged into a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) network server to offload processing for functions required in 5G network processing.
It’s meant to be a turnkey solution that will handle physical layer processing for channel coding, demodulation, and beamforming. Additionally, it provides the computational power to support Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) deployment. All About Circuits provided an overview of Massive MIMO in an article about CEVA’s O-RAN IP offering.
Qualcomm claims that the accelerator card reduces power consumption and CPUs required for this processing by 50%, lowering the overall total cost of ownership for O-RAN.
Specifications and Features:
- Integrated processing for functions including beamforming, demodulation, channel coding, and Massive MIMO
- Support for all 7.x Open RAN split functions
- X16 lane Gen 4 PCIe Interface in a Full-Height-Half-Length (FHHL) package
- GNSS RF or 10 MHz/PP1S clock interface input
- Passive thermal cooling
- 8 GB 3.2 GHz LPDDR
- 35 W when fully loaded
Qualcomm QRU100 5G RAN Platform
The Qualcomm QRU100 5G RAN Platform is intended to provide support for 5G networking, such as broadband transceivers, front-end antenna modules (for mmWave), RTR4 Remote Radio Head capabilities, and Massive MIMO support for 4T4R, 8T8R, 32T32R, and 64T64R configurations.
Specifications and Features:
- Open RAN compliant for all 7.x split functions
- Deployment flexibility in the range of mmWave to sub-6 GHz
- Multi-operator RAN sharing with up to 8 CCs per port
- Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS)
- Crest Factor Reduction (CFR)/Digital Pre-Distortion (DPD)
- DL 1024 WAM and UL 256 QAM modulation
- FR1: 400 MHz and FR2: 10,000 MHz bandwidth
- Integrated 300 Gbps Ethernet
The Open RAN Objective
Vodafone claims to be a pioneer in O-RAN, with a vision that in the future, multiple network providers and equipment vendors can seamlessly contribute to a 5G network. Traditionally, a network provider works with one main equipment supplier to deploy their infrastructure.
Traditional networks vs Open RAN networks. Image used courtesy of Vodafone
In order to bring down the barrier of entry for vendors, Vodafone and Qualcomm collaborated in Q2 2021 to develop technical blueprints and reference designs for O-RAN technology. This would contribute to increasing diversity, competition, and innovation as well as improve robustness to disruptions in the supply chain. Vodafone also launched an O-RAN Test and Validation Lab in support of this effort.