LIVE FROM TIP FYUZ23, MADRID: Vodafone Group detailed a big step in an open RAN silicon initiative, with Intel set to deliver sample quantities to enable the operator and its partners to begin testing and, ultimately, benchmark new technologies.

Vodafone network architecture director Yago Tenorio (pictured) said the agreement means Intel will provide working silicon from its factories in the US, paving the way to develop prototype open RAN products using the IP developed at a joint research facility the operator opened in January 2022.

“Intel was one of the founding partners”, Tenorio explained, noting the fresh silicon deal builds on a longstanding cooperation.

Vodafone, Intel and other partners are collaborating on next generation technologies: Tenorio said the latest agreement with the chip company will deliver “a lot of innovation in terms of algorithms and technologies”.

The arrangement will enable companies working at Vodafone’s silicon site to highlight the innovations they have developed. The executive explained Intel will provide enough sample silicon “to develop prototypes that we can then test, verify and benchmark”.

Tenorio tipped the move as a big step in efforts to commercialise the innovations developed so far at the research site, removing a barrier around the “long cycles and upfront investments that are typically required” for silicon.

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Alongside discussing moves involving Orange Romania and Nokia in Italy, Tenorio highlighted progress in a Vodafone goal to employ open RAN at 30 per cent of its sites by 2030 and said it plans to launch a tender process covering 170,000 sites, “of which more than 100,000 are in Europe”.

He said a deployment in the UK is a leading element in Vodafone’s broader plan, with the first 22 of a planned 2,500 sites live as of 6 October.

Tenorio also outlined an ambition to incorporate a third-party Massive MIMO into Vodafone’s open RAN initiatives by MWC Barcelona 2024, a move he said is “important because you can demonstrate the openness of the interface and demonstrate third-party radio integrated into someone else’s software”.

Vodafone decided to begin with Massive MIMO “because it is the most difficult part”.