Vodafone unveils Open RAN 5G network-in-a-box
- Vodafone has unveiled a new mini 5G network the size of a Wi-Fi router
- It has a core and radio software, a mini computer and a software-defined radio chipset
- It is just a prototype currently
- But if offered as a product could revolutionise the 5G private network sector
LONDON – Vodafone unveiled the star of its MWC23 showcase, an Open RAN-compatible 5G network-in-a-box, at its main London offices in Paddington today, with senior executives from the operator claiming the move could revolutionise the 5G private network market.
The box, which will be centre stage at the Vodafone booth at Mobile World Congress later this month, is no bigger than a home Wi-Fi router, comprises a software-defined radio (SDR) chipset developed by Lime Microsystems and a Raspberry Pi 4 personal computer. According to Yago Tenorio, Vodafone fellow and network architecture director at the operator, it is capable of running any 5G core software stack and RAN software that is suitably sized for a small network deployment, but for this particular prototype the core and radio software had been sourced from French vendor Amarisoft.
And not only is it the size of a Wi-Fi router but Tenorio claimed the cost of building such a device, which could be used by consumers or small businesses to extend 5G coverage or to create a private 5G network, will be the same as making a Wi-Fi router. “This is democratising the radio market,” stated the Vodafone executive at a media and analyst briefing in London on Friday.
While Vodafone says it is yet to decide what to do with the device from a business perspective, it clearly has its eyes on the small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) market, of which there are 22 million in the European markets where Vodafone offers its services.
According to the operator, the SDR system, which is compatible with Open RAN specifications, can “turn any computing platform into a miniature 5G base station,” which means that in addition to being a small portable network-in-a-box, it could be linked to an edge computing platform to provide a local extension to a public 5G network.
The network-in-a-box was developed at Vodafone’s European R&D centre in Málaga, Spain, where a team of engineers are focused on the development of chipsets for Open RAN networks.
Vodafone says there is nothing proprietary in the box and nothing that couldn’t be put together by any other company. “The fact is, no one else has been bothered to do it – we have,” stated Tenorio.
– Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV
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