Mobile chip giant Qualcomm is enlisting the help of OpenRAN cheerleader Vodafone to help it bring its smartphone methodology to the new radio paradigm.

For decades Qualcomm has produced reference designs, which are pre-commercial devices housing its latest smartphone chips, made available to the rest of the smartphone ecosystem to muck about with in preparation for going live. They’re effectively a technological sandbox in which people can try stuff out and fine tune their own contribution to the smartphone experience before commercial launch.

The sudden popularity of the OpenRAN concept, in which operators can build their radio network using a wide variety of different components as opposed to the current paradigm of buying the whole thing from one vendor, prompted Qualcomm to get involved last year.  Just as it has historically collaborated with vendors such as HTC to make its smartphone reference designs, Qualcomm is teaming up with Vodafone to develop an equivalent platform for OpenRAN.

“Qualcomm Technologies aims to deliver cutting-edge technology for virtualized, flexible and interoperable 5G infrastructure across the globe,” said Gerardo Giaretta, Senior Director of Product Management at Qualcomm. “We look forward to expanding our efforts with Vodafone to support flexible and scalable 5G RAN deployments. Ecosystem collaborations like this play a critical role in allowing operators and industry verticals to more quickly and easily add 5G network coverage and capacity where and when it is needed most.”

“Global supply chains need a diverse and vibrant vendor ecosystem to keep them moving in the event of a product shortage or a single supplier having difficulties,” said Santiago Tenorio, Head of Network Architecture at Vodafone. “Open RAN provides greater supplier diversity by allowing many more small vendors to compete on the world stage.

“Following the recent launch of our new Open RAN Test and Validation Lab, combining the creativity of Vodafone Engineering with that of our partners, we’re delighted to be partnering with Qualcomm Technologies to give smaller suppliers the best start.”

As we said when Vodafone announced that lab, it’s good to see it putting its money where its mouth is regarding OpenRAN. This seems like another positive step, especially if it doesn’t give Qualcomm a baked-in advantage over other would-be OpenRAN chip vendors. If OpenRAN eventually replaces the closed model it will be due to honest, transparent collaboration between every potential stakeholder.




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