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Intel gets a bunch of Dish 5G OpenRAN work

US chip giant Intel is finally gaining some telecoms credibility, having been picked as a partner for Dish’s greenfield 5G network.

Intel is not exactly synonymous with telecoms. For years it tried to make a chip you could put in a phone but they were always rubbish compared to those made using the Arm microarchitecture. It has retained a very strong presence in the data centre throughout, and it was thought that mobile edge computing might provide Intel’s best opportunity to get some telecoms business, but it turns out it has been busy further towards the edge of the network too.

Here’s the Intel kit Dish will be using: the Xeon Scalable Processor, the Ethernet 800 Series network adapter, the vRAN Dedicated Accelerator ACC100 and FlexRAN software reference architecture. This seems like a fairly extensive suite of tech to contribute to Dish’s OpenRAN efforts, although they insist on calling it O-RAN because there are more than one sets of companies working on the disaggregated RAN.

“Intel has been a trusted advisor throughout the design of our O-RAN network, working in concert with our software vendors Mavenir, Altiostar, and many OEM hardware providers,” said Marc Rouanne, Chief Network Officer at Dish. “We have tested several commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) designs from a large number of server vendors using Intel’s O-RAN compliant FlexRAN architecture and are pleased by the maturity and power of the solutions, together with the cost benefits of COTS solutions.”

“We are using the power of the VMware abstraction solution and the ubiquity of Intel-based servers to load and mix different types of cloud-native workloads like distributed unit (DU), centralized unit (CU), virtual routers, mobile edge computing applications, and 5G Core containerized network functions.”

“Fully-virtualized, cloud-native networks like the one Dish is building bring the same server economics that transformed the data centre,” said Dan Rodriguez, GM of Intel’s Network Platforms Group. “We are excited to partner with Dish to lay the foundation for a truly agile network and have already begun working with our OEM partners who have designed FlexRAN-based servers to enable a variety of new innovative use cases and services.”

This is the second OpenRAN win for Intel in a week. While it was kept quiet at the time, Intel is also one of the approved partners for Ericsson’s reluctant foray into the technology that is so threatening to its business model. With fellow US chipmakers Qualcomm and AMD also courting the RAN market, this looks set to be a keenly contested space.

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