Beyond foundational 5G IP, Arm focused on collaboration, ecosystem development
If you were to look inside many of the base stations and handsets that support 5G wireless communications, you’d likely encounter componentry built using Arm intellectual property. With its IP based microprocessor technology near ubiquitous and an architecture that is well known for low power and high performance, the firm is now focused on enabling its partners and ecosystem stakeholders to package 5G solutions for operators and enterprises.
Speaking with RCR Wireless News during the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Vice President of Marketing Eddie Ramirez explained: “What we’re here to do is really try to collaborate with the industry, to bring partners together, to actually be able to deploy solutions for the various 5G use cases, and accelerate that deployment.”
To that end, in October last year Arm announced the establishment of its 5G Solutions Lab. The idea is to provide a collaborative environment for hardware and software solution providers to incubate integrated, validated 5G use cases and hasten time-to-market, time-to-revenue and time-to-value. Built and operated by Tech Mahindra on behalf of Arm, the 5G Solutions Lab is endorsed and supported by several 5G ecosystem partners including DISH Wireless, Vodafone, Acceleran, Capgemini Engineering, EdgeQ, Gigabyte, Google Cloud, Marvell, Mavenir, NVIDIA, NXP, Parallel Wireless, Qualcomm, Radisys, Saankhya Labs, and Tech Mahindra.
During MWC, Arm mentioned that the Lab is fully functional with working use cases and did a live demonstration of the work being done by these partners. Mo Jabbari, Senior Segment Marketing Manager, walked through a 5G private network in a box solution that can also support mobile edge computing (MEC) workloads. The demo, which streamed a popular Nintendo video game, was built fully by Arm ecosystem partners—Gigabyte provided a server powered by Arm-based Ampere Altra chips; on top of that server, Phluido brought in a distributed unit with upper Layer 1 functionality; and Benetel provided radios for the over-the-air demo. Capgemini Engineering then seamlessly integrated the software components spanning the central unit (CU) , distributed unit (DU), the core network, and MEC.
Private networks represent a multi-faceted opportunity for operators, enterprises, and other ICT providers. Operators are able to deliver turnkey private networks along with managed services to create a new service revenue line and reach deeper into enterprises. In some markets where spectrum access is liberalized and the enterprise has sufficient technical know-how, companies are bypassing operators and taking a DIY approach that often involves systems integration specialists with vertical expertise. Regardless, private network investment is on a massive ramp and is a key piece of many digital transformation strategies.
Another area of focus for Arm, its partners and the telecoms industry at large is Open RAN, standards-based disaggregated radio systems that give operators the ability to mix and match hardware and software providers to optimize based on site configuration, performance and cost considerations. With regard to Open RAN, “There are a lot of companies that are trying to work together,” Jabbari said, “and create a carrier-grade solution. This is something that has been a bit challenging because it’s hard for all companies to find each other in a common place to be able to collaborate.”
Back to the 5G Solutions Lab—Arcadyan’s NXP-based server support CU/DU functionality for Arraycom’s small cell. Baicells has also used the 5G Solutions Lab to put together an integrated small cell using NXP and Qualcomm platforms. “We wanted to show that one Arm server is capable of running so much workloads smoothly,” Jabbari said. “Our tagline is always that Arm is around 75% cheaper than traditional solutions and 85% more performant. This is proving that point.”