Swedish kit maker Ericsson has shown off its cloud RAN prowess with a demo that uses Intel’s latest silicon and HPE’s telco server.

Officially unveiled at this year’s Mobile World Congress, the 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors with Intel vRAN Boost, promise to handle everything required of them when it comes to the RAN – from baseband processing to the application layer – without assistance from dedicated acceleration hardware, which Intel argues adds to the cost, complexity and energy consumption of the network.

On Tuesday, Ericsson laid claim to being the first vendor to carry out an end-to-end Cloud RAN call using the new chip.

It’s a bit a of win for Intel, because since its new line of processors was unveiled, rival chip maker Nvidia, which bases its products on Arm designs, has captured a lot of attention with the launch of its play for the Open RAN market. Ericsson itself also announced in April that it is developing Open RAN solutions that support Intel rival AMD’s processors.

Reaching this milestone with Ericsson will steer some of the attention back to Intel, and generally contribute to the ongoing bullish sentiment regarding the Open RAN market. It’s also worth noting that Ericsson’s big European rival Nokia currently supports Intel’s 3rd gen Xeon processors, so it would come as no surprise to learn that Finland’s finest also plans to support the new 4th gen silicon.

“Achieving this significant milestone with Ericsson and HPE is possible only through open industry collaboration. Strong ecosystem engagements like this are absolutely critical to drive global innovation and commercial deployments at scale,” said Dan Rodriguez, corporate vice president and general manager at Intel’s network and edge solutions group.

“This achievement shows our commitment to driving Open RAN forward, with our high-performing Cloud RAN solution and extensive support of the larger ecosystem. Working with partners like Intel and HPE, we are actively promoting open standards and delivering intelligent and sustainable solutions for future networks,” added David Hammarwall, head of product area networks, Ericsson.

Similarly, HPE will doubtless be pleased with the publicity, given it is in a race with the likes of Cisco, Dell, and Lenovo – among others – to offer the best commercial off-the-shelf (COTs) servers for cloud-native networks. Launched back in February 2012, HPE’s DL110 server claimed to be the first server designed specifically to optimise multi-vendor, Open RAN compliant workloads.

“We’re excited to work with Ericsson and Intel to advance Open RAN innovation for operators and enterprises, with the promise of increased network capacity, energy efficiency, flexibility and scalability,” said Phil Cutrone, SVP and GM, service providers, OEM, and telco at HPE. “The HPE ProLiant DL110 Cloud RAN optimised server provides Ericsson and our joint telco customers with the ideal platform to deploy Cloud RAN technology while also addressing telco challenges with respect to power and performance.”

Now all Ericsson and its partners need are some customers. Research firm Dell’Oro noted last month that global Open RAN revenue growth slowed significantly year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023. The slowdown was attributed to growth in North America tailing off, offsetting growth in Asia Pacific. While there is still plenty of interest from operators in Open RAN, large-scale deployments remain few and far between.

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