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Vodafone Says 5G Massive MIMO Open RAN’s Toughest Nut To Crack: Report

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Open radio access network (RAN) will take time before it is able to prove its viability and performance equivalent to the traditional integrated system currently being deployed for enabling 5G services and certain areas still require “much more R&D efforts”, said head of group network architecture, Vodafone Yago Tenorio in an online event hosted by TelecomTV.

“5G massive MIMO, in particular, is a complex problem to crack and will require not just a lot of software development but also hardware, in particular semiconductors… we will need new solutions to be developed in terms of chipsets that are powering those efficient, super-complex radios. It is difficult to say how long that is going to take maybe, you know, as little as maybe 12 months [to] 18 months to [achieve a] full solution. It can be later if Open RAN adoption is low in the industry,” Tenorio told the publication.

Open RAN is a technology that enables carriers to disaggregate hardware and software modules and procure them respectively from different vendors, thereby improving interoperability.

India’s telecom sector, in the efforts of enabling policies including more quantum of the spectrum, is set to establish new benchmarks in the next-generation network deployments and service delivery.

He remarked that “Massive MIMO will be the toughest nut to crack” and noted that telcos are in the process of developing products compliant with Open RAN deployments in the run-up to 5G services rollout.

More recently, Vodafone rolled out its 4G services in Ireland across the North-West region using US-based Open RAN (O-RAN) company Parallel Wireless’ software. In Ireland, the sites are being built on an O-RAN architecture with a Remote Radio Unit (RRU) provided by Comba Telecom, Distributed Unit (DU) by Parallel Wireless, and Central Unit (CU) software running on vBBU by Supermicro.

In India, telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea (Vi) are gradually looking beyond traditional gear vendors by using Open RAN architecture in order to reduce expenditures and enhance customization as they move towards 5G rollout.

Vodafone Idea has already done OpenRAN based commercial deployment TDD LTE and massive Mimo sites in various cities.

“We have been engaged in Open RAN for 3 years and we intend to further enhance the deployment into our network. We have worked with few vendors over the last 3 years to develop the next-gen radio solutions including OpenRAN,” former chief technology officer at Vodafone Idea, Vishant Vora had told ETTelecom.

The cash-strapped telco has been engaged with various partners like Mavenir within the OpenRAN space to develop solutions catering to the traffic requirements of Indian networks. The telco’s OpenRAN partners include hardware suppliers for radios and servers; software suppliers, system integrators.

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