Vodafone has announced an extension of its work with Intel on optimising advanced algorithms for use in Open RAN platforms.

Vodafone and Intel believe one of the key principles of Open RAN is the disaggregation of the access networks and mobile antennas within open radio (O-RU) domains, which means separating hardware and software to drive greater innovation. The two companies are already working together towards the operator’s planned UK commercial deployment of 4th Gen Intel Xeon processors with Intel vRAN Boost in the first half of 2024. These are designed to deliver the highest possible level of performance for customers while reducing energy consumption.

The move forms part of Vodafone and Intel’s long-term research collaboration at Vodafone’s innovation centre in Spain, the Telecommunication Institute of University of Málaga. The collaboration between the tech firms working alongside the leading academic institution aims to bring together the expertise, capacity and capability needed to conduct research and innovate in this area to advance existing Open RAN architecture and grow the emerging ecosystem.

The initial areas where the three parties will focus their latest R&D include evolving the Open RAN architecture and using advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to develop what they claimed will be ultra-efficient algorithms for 5G massive MIMO, used to multiply capacity in urban areas. The resulting algorithms and other innovations generated by this research are then intended to be integrated into test silicon, produced by Intel, and used to create new benchmarks for the advancement of silicon needed to drive powerful industrial internet applications.

By embedding advanced algorithms and technologies across the entire footprint of its network, including the core, edge, access and radio, Vodafone said it can meet future demand and scale up new 5G features such as network slicing, which can give businesses, hospitals or schools their own fast connection on demand.

It will represent a step change in computation without the need for multiple chipsets in radio units. Vodafone is confident this will give the necessary processing power to continually improve speeds and capacity for customers for years to come, while delivering critical services when and where they are needed.

Since the start of their collaboration in 2022, Vodafone and Intel said they have introduced significant advancements in performance and energy efficiency of Open RAN systems running on x86 General Purpose Processors. These advancements are said to have been achieved by using silicon architectural enhancements, software optimisation techniques and power management features. These are all major contributors to lowering the total cost of ownership of Open RAN.

Going forward, Vodafone and Intel aim to work on the development of next-generation processing technologies for use in telecommunications datacentres in support of virtualised radio access networks. They will also look to extend the benefits of their joint intellectual property to other industries heavily reliant on AI/ML algorithms, such as market research and medical pattern identification. A homogenous and scaled chipset, supported by new standard interfaces, will allow the cost of development and adoption to spread across other business sectors.

“Open RAN has opened the doors to unforeseen benefits through greater disaggregation,” said Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone’s director of network architecture. “Vodafone and its partners are now focussed on realising this potential to reduce costs and improve energy savings while enhancing performance for our customers.”

“Future radio networks rely on innovations that the industry invests in today,” added Dan Rodriguez, corporate vice-president and general manager of network and edge solutions at Intel. “Our work with Vodafone and other companies across the industry on next-gen technologies is critical, and helps foster a broad, open ecosystem.”

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