Vodafone explores software-defined radio with a squeeze of Lime

Vodafone group is enlisting the help of UK outfit Lime Microsystems to develop software-defined radio platform that supports its open RAN ambitions.

Lime aims to commoditize the RAN such that it is open to all developers in much the same way has the PC platform has been for years. As the virtualization era progresses it has become clear that the old paradigm of closed, proprietary networking technology is over and a much more open environment is required. Lime thinks that software-defining the RAN is a key part of this.

Vodafone has been one of the most vocal operators in demanding the industry gets a move on with virtualization and all the utopian goodness it promises the industry. It is also one of the operators showing a desire to become less dependent on the big networking vendors and do more of the R&D heavy lifting itself, as indicated by its recent tech day.

“Lime Micro is at the forefront of software defined radio wireless technology development, and the platform being app-enabled brings the concepts of agile and feature-rich systems together, unlocking new applications that leverage this radio flexibility and openness to build new services and a completely different radio,” said Francisco Martin, Head of Radio Product at Vodafone.

“LimeNET is the next phase in virtualizing wireless networks and bringing products that operators can use for future real-world deployments,” said Ebrahim Bushehri, CEO of Lime. “The radio was limited before in terms of the flexibility of providing various frequencies and modes, but we’ve solved that with our field programmable radio that can adapt dynamically to multiple bands.

“Wireless innovation has been limited by access to affordable, easy-to-use, maintainable and upgradeable hardware. By making radio networks software configurable, LimeNET is changing this and is aligning well with Vodafone’s Open RAN initiative to virtualize RAN functionality and enable decoupling of hardware, software and third party applications using general purpose platforms.”

In an interview with Bushehri revealed that the key to this technology is software-defining the RAN and then using generic chips from vendor such as Intel rather than proprietary ones. This brings the whole coding community into play and partnerships with the likes of Canonical enable that coding to be done on Linux.

Ultimately Lime considers its work to be well positioned for a range of emerging technological trends in the telecoms world. Not only does software-defining the RAN fit in well with virtualization, but its field-programmable modules are considered to be a good fit with mobile-edge computing.

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