Vodafone underlined its commitment to Open RAN networks on Monday by confirming it would create purpose-built chipset architecture for the nascent technology with Intel INTC.O.
The European operator also said it had made its first 4G calls using Open RAN over network sites shared with Orange ORAN.PA in Romania, and it was partnering with Nokia NOKIA.HE to pilot the technology in Italy.
Open RAN allows mobile operators to mix and match equipment from various suppliers, potentially increasing flexibility.
Progress has been slow, however, and the market remains dominated by proprietary solutions from Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei, although the latter has been hit by government restrictions in countries including Britain.
Vodafone agreed in 2022 to work with U.S. chipmaker Intel on the potential to design its own chip architecture.
The company’s director of network architecture Santiago Tenorio confirmed the partners would jointly create chipsets at its campus in Malaga, Spain.
The chipsets will be available to smaller third-party vendors to test their own algorithms without a large financial outlay in silicon, Tenorio said at the FYUZ industry event in Madrid.
He said the ability to produce silicon designs in testing sample quantities would significantly speed up the time to deliver innovation.
“Combining Vodafone’s networking expertise with Intel’s strength in silicon architecture design will enable rapid prototyping, verification and testing, eventually leading to a faster mass production of the chips the industry needs to accelerate,” he said.
Vodafone and Orange said on Monday they had successfully made 4G calls over a cluster of sites in a rural area near Bucharest based on Open RAN technology.
The two companies used hardware and software provided by Samsung, Wind River and Dell in the pilot, they said.
In Italy, Vodafone said a pilot with Nokia aimed to prove that Nokia’s Open RAN solution could achieve the same functionality and performance as its purpose built RAN.