Vodafone and Telefónica, which are both members of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), are issuing a request for information (RFI) to vendors for products that use OpenRAN principles. The two operators plan to make the specifications for the RFI available to the OpenRAN project group in the coming days, and they will announce the results of the RFI along with a shortlist of potential vendors at the TIP Summit Oct. 16-17 in London.
The RFIs are focused on 4G LTE RAN solutions, although Vodafone and Telefónica said they would also consider 2G and 3G platforms.
The RFIs are intended to help OpenRAN technologies gain traction in the market and determine which vendors are innovating in this area. The submissions will be evaluated using certain benchmarks. Those vendors that want to submit to the RFI process are encouraged to provide detailed information on their products as well as their development plans for the next year. Only RAN nodes that demonstrate open interoperability of the baseband processing platform, radio hardware, software, and business model will be evaluated.
TIP debuted its OpenRAN Project Group last year with the goal of developing RAN technologies based on general purpose processing platforms (GPPP) and disaggregated software. The project’s aim is to reduce the cost of building mobile networks and make it easier for small vendors to enter the market.
Vodafone had been working on its own software-defined RAN project, and it contributed that project to TIP. Vodafone is one of the leaders of TIP’s OpenRAN Group along with Intel.
At Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona in February, Vodafone CTO Johan Wibergh said that the operator had tested the open RAN technologyfor six months India, and it was able to reduce costs by 30 percent.
But TIP isn’t the only group exploring open interoperability of the RAN hardware and software. The xRAN Forum, which was formed in 2016, is also trying to figure out how to standardize an open alternative to hardware-based RAN. It has several operator members including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, NTT Docomo, SK Telecom, and Telstra.
The xRAN Forum in February announced that it was merging with the C-RAN Alliance to form the ORAN Alliance. That merger was supposed to be completed this month.
Mavenir is a member of both TIP and the xRAN Forum. According to Bejoy Pankajakshan, Mavenir’s SVP of technology and strategy, the two groups are different in how they are addressing fronthaul, which is the interface that delivers traffic from the baseband units (BBUs) and the remote radio heads.
He added that TIP’s RFI is a good thing for Mavenir, which he describes as a software disruptive vendor, because it will force traditional network equipment providers to open up their radios allowing firm’s like Mavenir to implement xRAN and TIP use case scenarios on top of the radio.
In April the xRAN Forum released its first specification dedicated to virtualizing the fronthaul portion of the network. Pankajakshan said the group is planning to release an update to that spec next month.