Intel is selling the virtualized radio access network (vRAN) boost feature in its 4th generation Xeon server chips as a way for mobile operators to utilize the benefits of layer 1 vRAN boosting without having to manage additional chips or software.

Talking to Silverlinings, Cristina Rodriguez, vice president of Intel’s network and edge group, said of the Xeon 4th generation chip: “You don’t need any external accelerator.”

Intel introduced the vRAN boost with the 4th generation of its Xeon server chip, which was codenamed Sapphire Rapids, earlier this year. They are the first Xeon silicon to have the vRAN boost on the chip. 

“We believe that Sapphire Rapids will match or be better than any L1 [system on a chip] SOC solution that exists or could be entering the market,” Rodriguez declared. She said that Intel thinks that the silicon will “accelerate the the transformation to the software-defined network in the RAN space.”

Cloud boss

Not that Intel should be that worried about competitors in the vRAN space right now. As operators have started to move to merchant silicon to run vRAN, they have largely chosen Intel chips to do it.

“Nearly every vRAN deployment today in the world is running on Intel,” Rodriguez claimed.

Silverlinings heard talk from the chip arm of Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently that ARM processors are more efficient for cloud-native 5G core applications.

Rodriguez told us that the latest Xeon silicon offers sleep states that be used with low-latency 5G cores for energy reduction. “We have seen a power consumption reduction of up to 30%,” Rodriguez said.

Xeon MNO fans

Intel has already signed up major operators to use the 4th generation Xeon. These include Verizon, Vodafone, Telefonica and Rakuten.

“One of our major customers right now is Verizon,” Rodriguez said. “They have deployed more than 10,000 cell sites in the U.S.” using the Intel processor. She said that the operator has largely used its 3rd generation Xeon processor so far in rolling out the wireless gear, but is onboard with its 4th generation product.

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