Vodafone and partners carry out O-RAN 5G multi-vendor trial

Vodafone Group has partnered with Telecom Infra Project (TIP), Cohere Technologies, VMware, Capgemini Engineering and Intel to demonstrate how Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technology can be used to boost the capacity of 5G where multiple customers are using the same site.

In a release, the U.K.-based telecom group said that the partners conducted a laboratory test that increased the capacity of a 5G cell site by two-fold using a programmable, AI-based RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) supporting a mix of Open RAN components from multiple vendors.

The companies claimed the trial was the first example of 5G multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) running on a RIC located at a multi-vendor Open RAN test site. “MU-MIMO apportions ample bandwidth to individual users connected to the same mobile site and is considered the pivotal technique to boost cell capacity in future 5G networks,” according to the partners’ release.

Francisco Martín, Head of Open RAN at Vodafone, said: “This initiative validates the role that this powerful new platform plays in defining Open RAN as the future of networking. It boosts capacity for customers when they need it most, reduces the need for expensive hardware by a third and cuts down on energy consumption. These time and cost savings will ultimately encourage the introduction of new, innovative services.”

With Open RAN technology, mobile base stations can be built using hardware and software from multiple vendors, rather than just one or two suppliers. The new system tested by the companies reduces the need for expensive and energy-consuming hardware within a mobile base station by up to a third, according to Vodafone.

Based on the performance of Cohere’s Spectrum Multiplier MU-MIMO scheduler in the trial, when the technique is commercially deployed in a low-band (e.g. 700MHz) network, users will benefit from up to 2x the capacity achieved using traditional MIMO. This software can be extended to Massive MIMO in mid-band (e.g. 3.5GHz) networks in order to push capacity gains towards 4-5x, Vodafone added.

Vodafone highlighted that VMware provides an O-RAN aligned RIC platform supporting Open APIs for third party applications and implements the open interface, which has been enhanced with pre-standard capabilities, towards the baseband. The first use case integrated with VMware’s RIC platform is Cohere’s application. Capgemini’s software includes the required baseband radio functions to execute MU-MIMO related actions. Intel’s FlexRAN software delivers the 5G New Radio (NR) physical layer and contributes with the COTS hardware to host both VMware’s RIC platform and Capgemini’s baseband.

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