Vodafone’s Open RAN alliance with Qualcomm highlights the risk of semiconductor vendor lock-in
Vodafone and Qualcomm will form a highly significant partnership with the aim of developing blueprints to lower the barriers that smaller vendors face when entering the RAN equipment market. They plan to predefine many of the physical components of two crucial elements of a virtualised RAN (vRAN): the distributed unit (DU) and the radio unit (RU). They will also support open interfaces as defined by the O-RAN Alliance.
If successful, Vodafone and Qualcomm will take a big step towards achieving a key aim of the Open RAN initiative: to broaden the choice of equipment suppliers in order to boost competition and innovation and reduce the power of incumbent vendors. However, there are questions over how open the radio unit blueprint can be if it remains defined by only one chipmaker, since other chip providers will be excluded from the platform.
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