Mavenir seemed to be everywhere at MWC 2023 in Barcelona recently. The vendor had a few high-profile news announcements and several technical announcements as well. And considering its growing importance in the open radio access network (open RAN), Fierce Wireless reached out for a comprehensive update.
In the high-profile arena, Mavenir recently announced collaborations with Deutsche Telekom, Qualcomm and Dish.
Deutsche Telekom chose Mavenir’s OpenBeam massive MIMO radios for DT’s open RAN deployment in one (unnamed) country of its European footprint. Mavenir will be delivering its OpenBeam massive MIMO radios as well as third-party open RAN radios for open fronthaul. In addition, Mavenir will also act as the end-to-end system integrator for that deployment.
OpenBeam is simply the brand name for Mavenir’s open RAN radios.
Mavenir CTO Bejoy Pankajakshan said, “Mavenir never intended to be in the hardware business. The original plan was to leverage radios from other players.”
He said the company had to pivot when relations soured between Western countries and China. There were several Chinese vendors that could supply open-RAN-compliant radios, but that became unacceptable. There are a number of non-Chinese radio vendors such as Fujitsu, NEC, KMW and MTI that can provide open RAN radios. “The only issue is there aren’t enough radios covering all bands and regions,” said Pankajakshan. “When there’s a gap we have to develop our radios.”
It’s established a relationship with the Indian equipment maker Jabil to manufacture OpenBeam radios. Although Jabil is Mavenir’s largest original design manufacturer (ODM) it’s not an exclusive relationship. Mavenir uses other ODMs as well.
Getting back to Deutsche Telekom, the German operator also announced that it was moving forward with open RAN in its biggest market — Germany. But it selected Nokia and Fujitsu as its open RAN vendors in that country. Pankajakshan said that neither Nokia nor Ericsson have opened their radios to Mavenir for interworking.
Pankajakshan said, in his view, perhaps the highest-profile news lately for Mavenir has been its announcement with Qualcomm. The launch of Mavenir’s next generation OpenBeam massive MIMO 32TRX active antenna unit (AAU) will feature Qualcomm’s QRU100 5G RAN Platform. The Mavenir AAU is an open RAN radio with 192 antenna elements.
“I think the announcement with Qualcomm gathered a lot of attention,” said Pankajakshan. “It kind of shows you have someone as big as Qualcomm coming in.” He said massive MIMO radios “have been tough” to build, and “doing something with Qualcomm and announcing jointly is advantageous.”
The new massive MIMO radio features improved energy efficiency attributed to Qualcomm’s system on a chip (SOC), which uses artificial intelligence to power various radio components down when they’re not needed for peak traffic.
Vodafone also highlighted the Mavenir/Qualcomm massive MIMO radio at its booth at the recent MWC show in Barcelona (pictured).
“Mavenir’s collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies has produced a leading solution in the market and is one that brings a new level of excellence to the massive MIMO space in terms of energy efficiency and performance,” stated Paco Martin, head of open RAN at Vodafone Group.
Mavenir also recently highlighted that it provides Dish Wireless with open vRAN software that supports greater than 40,000 radios across the Dish 5G cloud-native open RAN network.
But Mavenir’s work with Dish got somewhat overshadowed recently by Samsung’s announcement that it was supplying an initial shipment of 24,000 open RAN radios to Dish.
Although Mavenir and Samsung are both vendors for Dish, they’re also competitors.
Samsung is supplying Dish with its virtualized distributed unit (vDU), virtualized central unit (vCU) and open RAN-compliant 5G radios, which support the Dish spectrum bands. Samsung also built new dual-band and tri-band open RAN-compliant radios specific for Dish.
For its part, Mavenir doesn’t supply radios to Dish. It supplies the DU and CU software on Fujitsu open RAN radios. Mavenir software is powering 40,000+ radios across the Dish Network and is live across more than 7,400 sites.
In addition to its news related to high-profile customers and partners, Mavenir also recently made some technical announcements.
It introduced its virtual cell site router (vCSR), which moves the cell site routing functionality into a containerized virtual function inside the open RAN DU server. Mavenir said its new vCSR is being implemented at an unnamed Tier 1 service provider and will be generally available in the second half of 2023.
Asked how Mavenir’s vCSR compares to the Telecom Infra Project’s (TIP’s) disaggregated cell site gateway, Pankajakshan said TIP’s disaggregated cell site gateway relies on purpose-built merchant silicon from various semiconductor companies. “Ours relies on x86, jointly with Intel,” he said. “It’s all done in software.” He said the move from merchant silicon to x86 is all part of the evolution of open RAN.
Mavenir’s vCSR won’t be for every operator. Pankajakshan said, “In many brownfields they have a radio from an incumbent vendor connected to a CSR. We wouldn’t be replacing those.” He said there are sometimes issues with legacy radios because the timing must be provided by a physical CSR. Open RAN radios can provide the necessary timing for the DU.
In terms of its new vCSR, he said, “We’re talking to customers who could leverage this.”
Finally, Mavenir made an announcement about running its open vRAN solution on generic hardware using Red Hat’s OpenShift container software.
Pankajakshan said the announcement with Red Hat follows similar announcements with other vendors such as AWS, Google and Microsoft.
He said, “We usually go with whichever platform the customer wants.” The important thing is that Mavenir has pre-integrated its software with the software of other leading vendors to eliminate all the initial testing and certification that would be necessary for a customer to implement a joint solution.