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Qualcomm as the ‘engine’ of Open RAN base stations

Speaking during IFA, Qualcomm President discusses the company’s role in the RAN

Open RAN is having a big impact on the telecom space with major operators around the world embracing disaggregation of radio access network (RAN) hardware and software. The idea is to give operators more vendor options by opening up radio interfaces making RAN interoperability possible; this could also reduce RAN-related costs and drive competition in an ecosystem largely dominated by three companies.

Speaking last week during a keynote for IFA, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon discussed the company’s role in Open RAN–he said modern networks are becoming more “virtual, modular and interoperable. Cellular infrastructure is evolving to become more open, innovative and competitive.”

Qualcomm’s 5G RAN platform, initially launched in 2018, is being used by numerous infrastructure providers, including Airspan, Altiostar, Baicells, Corning, Radisys, Rakuten, Samsung, Sercomm and now, Japanese powerhouses Fujitsu and NEC.

In clips played during Amon’s keynote, Fujitsu’s SVP of Mobile Systems Business Unit Maska Taniguchi said the company “believe[s] that open interface[s] and modularized architecture are essential for mobile operators to more easily introduce new services or to customize their networks based on specific needs.” Atsuo Kawamura, NEC’s executive vice president and president of the Network Services Business Unit, said open, virtualized RAN equipment “is vital to realizing the full potential of 5G and driving the data transformation. I believe that we have huge potential to deploy 5G infrastructure that is highly optimized for operators around the world.”

Vodafone and Telefonica are both engaged in various Open RAN trial activity. Vodafone, for instance, recently turned on an Open RAN site in Wales and plans to further explore the technology for both rural and urban networks.

Deutsche Telekom earlier this year announced it is working with VMware and Intel on an “open and intelligent virtual RAN…platform, based on O-RAN standards.” DT Board Member Claudia Nemat also appeared during Amon’s keynote; she linked Open RAN to “flexibility, scalability and accelerated innovation…Open RAN for me primarily means a modular hardware and software set up utilizing all the benefits coming from virtualization and cloud together with open interfaces.” 

In response to a question from RCR Wireless News, Amon discussed Open RAN as potential vector of disruption to traditional network equipment providers. “I believe that vRAN and Open RAN creates a huge opportunity for some of the network equipment providers that will lead the transition in what Infrastructure 2.0 is.” He said incumbents could “take a leading role in the software that will run in those networks and will provide feature parity between the existing systems and the new systems.”

He added, “It could be an interesting opportunity for some fo the existing players to over time evolve into a very powerful software provider in addition to what they do today in providing an integrated solution.” RAN disaggregation, Amon said, “creates a significant opportunity, I think, for Qualcomm. We’re one of the few companies that have the assets that we can build the engine of the new Open RAN base station and we’re very excited about that opportunity.”

Watch a video of Amon’s IFA keynote here. 


Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief
Editor-in-Chief Sean focuses on multiple subject areas including 5G, Open RAN, hybrid cloud, edge computing, and Industry 4.0. He also hosts Arden Media's podcast Will 5G Change the World? Prior to his work at RCR, Sean studied journalism and literature at the University of Mississippi then spent six years based in Key West, Florida, working as a reporter for the Miami Herald Media Company. He currently lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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