Parallel Wireless is ready to return to the wireless stage and show the industry its latest innovations in open radio access networks (O-RAN).

The startup, which in June 2022 was forced to lay off a large portion of its staff due to the slow adoption of O-RAN, says it is back on track and has narrowed its focus to creating products for public wireless networks, leaving other areas like private wireless and indoor coverage products to its O-RAN competitors.

Parallel’s most recent innovation is its 5G SA open RAN software solution that it says can disaggregate the open RAN software stack from the underlying compute platform, making it possible for companies to use central processing units (CPUs) from a variety of different manufacturers including ARM-based processors. Currently nearly all O-RAN deployments use Intel’s proprietary FlexRAN software architecture running on x86-based COTs servers, according to Counterpoint Research. However, as Counterpoint noted, other vendors are working on alternatives to FlexRAN. 

But Parallel Wireless says that its 5G SA open RAN software solution makes that option possible today. “We developed our software in a way that you can use any chipset manufacturer,” said Yisrael Nov, executive vice president of Parallel Wireless.  Nov added that Intel’s FlexRAN software architecture is “power hungry” and that by using another manufacturer’s technology operators may be able to reduce their power consumption by as much as 20% to 30%.

Nov said that wireless operators have been very receptive to Parallel Wireless’ 5G SA O-RAN software platform and that Vodafone is interested in testing it in its network. “The more sophisticated operators understand what we are doing,” he said.

Besides its new software-agnostic O-RAN platform, Parallel also working closely on developing partnerships with other companies to ease O-RAN deployments. The company recently signed a deal with SUSE to make sure its software resources can be deployed with Kubernetes.  And it inked a deal with Distributed Antenna System (DAS) provider Solid to make it easier for operators to deploy Parallel’s technology in a DAS environment.  Parallel’s open RAN-powered DAS can be installed on an edge data center, which means operators do not need deploy a lot of additional equipment.

“This is really about capex savings and power savings,” Nov said.

O-RAN Renaissance

Industry analysts predict that the O-RAN market is set to grow, albeit slowly, this year. ABI Research recently said that it expects the O-RAN market to see a 6% to 8% growth by the end of the year. ABI said that Parallel remains one of the dominant players in O-RAN, but added that in the second half of the year incumbent vendors like Ericsson, will start releasing their own open RAN products which will likely result in fierce competition to players like Parallel.

Of course, this prediction is likely fuelled by AT&T’s recent inking of a five-year $14 billion deal with Ericsson for O-RAN.

The deal was a bit of a surprise because Ericsson hasn’t always been a proponent of O-RAN and was slow to embrace the technology.

Nov said that he believes this deal holds potential positive and negatives for Parallel.  If Ericsson truly deploys an O-RAN solution that is open, then Nov believes it could be a positive for other O-RAN vendors because it means that there may be room for other players. However, if it isn’t that could be a big obstacle. “The question is, how open will it be?” Nov said.

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