Development of Open RAN 5G networks gathers pace at MWC

Posted By : Mick Elliott

A collaboration between Keysight Technologies and fellow O-RAN Alliance members AT&T, Anokiwave, Ball Corporation and Xilinx is accelerating development of 5G networks using an open radio access network (O-RAN) architecture to increase flexibility for service providers.

Open, standards-based network architectures with interoperable interfaces and off-the-shelf components enable mobile operators to address a diverse set of demands in support of new vertical market revenue opportunities. These opportunities are driven by smart cities, industrial automation, and connected cars among other vertical industries.

The O-RAN Alliance was formed in early 2018 and includes many of the world's leading mobile operators and manufacturers of wireless equipment. Its members are committed to creating an industry standard that will accelerate the development of 5G networks based on an open RAN architecture.

The multi-party collaboration has already resulted in a key industry milestone. The parties will showcase the industry's first O-RAN 5G mmWave radio unit (O-RU) white box demonstration at Xilinx's booth 6M30 in Hall 6 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (February 25-28). The live demonstration combines essential building blocks to create and test a blueprint for next generation RAN.

"This achievement within O-RAN is exciting because it proves that a radio unit can be built on an open architecture platform," said Andre Fuetsch, President AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer. "Since the demo unit we'll show at MWC is built with commercial off-the-shelf components, it's a promising next step to deliver the flexibility we're looking for when building networks– especially as we enter into the mobile 5G deployment era."

"We're excited to play a prominent role in developing the standards to create a robust interoperability framework that addresses new 5G market opportunities," said Giampaolo Tardioli, vice president of Keysight's Network Access group. "Keysight's capability to a provide rapid prototyping framework across radio frequency and protocol measurement domains enables the industry to accelerate development and integration of 5G solutions."

"Our team's white box proof of concept demonstrates that an open architecture remote radio unit can be built with commercial off-the-shelf components," said Rob Freedman, vice president and general manager, Tactical Solutions, Ball Aerospace, a business of Ball Corporation. "As the integrator of the O-RU demonstration, Ball Aerospace is leveraging our system solution heritage to bring together our enabling phased array antenna technology combined with commercially available components, which will enable operators to rapidly innovate their service offerings."

"We're pleased to contribute towards this demonstration of the first mmWave RRU whitebox with our AWA-0134 28GHz mmWave antenna," said Alastair Upton, Anokiwave's senior vice president of business development. "A working prototype of a mmWave Smart Radio Unit from a fronthaul interface to mmWave beams is an important step to realise open interfaces for the O-RAN Alliance."

"Operators are facing multiple challenges with 5G deployment such as time to market, differentiation, multi-vendor systems environment, programmability and adaptability to face new services and new standard features. The O-RAN group clearly focuses on optimizing the interfaces for functions/space/power/cost to overcome the challenges operators are facing," says Farhad Shafai, vice president, communications markets, Xilinx. "Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC devices have been designed especially for the radio units' market so we are delighted to be part of the first O-RAN radio unit demonstration along with AT&T, Keysight, Anokiwave and Ball."

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