Mavenir lands VMO2 Open RAN deal

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UK operator group Virgin Media O2 has added network software specialist Mavenir to its roster of Open RAN suppliers.

The agreement, announced on Monday, will see Mavenir’s open virtualised radio access network (vRAN) solution deployed at sites throughout the operator’s footprint. Fully cloud-native, it enables the distributed unit (DU) and centralised unit (CU) to run as containerised network functions on commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware.

The COTS hardware in question needs to come with an Intel Xeon processor. Mavenir’s software is also designed to be compatible with Intel’s ACC100 vRAN accelerator, and Intel’s 800 series Ethernet adapters.

This raises a question about whether Open RAN really is achieving its stated aim of encouraging diversity within the network supply chain. If every software vendor develops their products to run on Intel, then networks are still basically locked into proprietary hardware, it just happens to be boxed up and sold by different companies.

Telcos might not care about this, because competition between COTS suppliers will help with keeping a lid on prices, but one company – Intel – will still be the ultimate beneficiary. The company itself seems only too happy to point this out, noting in the run-up to this year’s Mobile World Congress that “99% or so” of commercial vRAN deployments run on Intel.

On the other hand, Mavenir joins a growing list of software suppliers for VMO2’s Open RAN deployment, which can be seen as a win for the Open RAN movement. VMO2’s first Open RAN sites went live last August, and run on Rakuten Symphony’s Open RAN software, edge cloud, radio management and operations system. Japan-based NEC acted as systems integrator.

In addition to software, Mavenir will also deliver its modular OpenBeam radio solution, which supports massive MIMO. It will also supply third-party O-RAN based radio units (O-RUs) for open fronthaul, network monitoring, and optimisation. To get all this deployed and running properly, Mavenir will also take on the role as the prime integrator.

“Extending our collaboration with Mavenir to the RAN for the first time will help us establish a future-proof open vRAN architecture, unlocking the benefits of a multi-vendor open interface while allowing us to rapidly benefit from an end-to-end network solution,” said VMO2 CTO Jeanie York, in a statement.

Monday’s announcement comes just over a month after VMO2 brought in Ericsson to provide kit for its ongoing network modernisation programme. The contract comprises the supply of its quad-technology baseband, multiband, and 5G Massive MIMO radio AIR 3258 solution. VMO2 is also investing in small cells and service upgrades in various major cities across the UK.

Meanwhile, Light Reading reports that Mavenir is overhauling its marketing strategy. In keeping with the theme of disaggregation, the company is shifting from a centralised to a regional approach, reducing headcount at HQ and hiring staff in locations where there are big RAN and packet core deals to be won.

Once the new strategy has been implemented, it will mark the end of Maryvonne Tubb’s tenure as Mavenir’s SVP of marketing and corporate communications.


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