Picocom, a specialist in 5G Open RAN baseband semiconductors and software, and Texas Instruments (TI) have come together in an innovative initiative to produce a complete 5G Open RAN small cell radio unit reference design aimed at speeding time-to-market for customers looking for innovative small cell solutions. This partnership aims to reduce customer costs associated with their implementations of innovative small cells solutions.
This collaborative 5G small cell radio unit meets O-RAN Alliance specifications for an outdoor 5W 4T4R 200MHz frequency radio unit (O-RU). Notably, it features Texas Instrument’s AFE7769D quad-channel RF transceiver which features DPD/CFR technology with Picocom’s PC802 5GNR/LTE PHY System-on-Chip (SoC), making for an exceptionally versatile solution with LTE compatibility as a bonus feature.
Vicky Messer, Vice President of Product Management for Picocom, expressed excitement over their collaboration. Together they worked closely to integrate Picocom’s PC802 transceiver family with Texas Instrument’s AFE77xxD transceiver family for small cell and O-RU design solutions bringing benefits to new and existing customers alike.
Karthik Vasanth, General Manager of Data Converters & Clocks at Texas Instruments (TI), highlighted the advantages of this design. “With this design,” explained Vasanth, engineers can take advantage of an O-RAN-standard SoC and RF transceiver from TI to optimize power transfer and simplify system integration for their small cell designs. He highlighted how well aligned are TI’s transceivers with integrated digital pre-distortion with Picocom SoC and software for meeting efficiency demands demanded in today’s ever changing telecom landscape.
A collaborative effort has resulted in the TI PCM-3P-PC802, an all-inclusive LTE/5G O-RAN Small Cell Outdoor Radio Reference Design package. This all-in-one solution simplifies manufacturing by providing PCB, cable, enclosure, mechanical design schematics, evaluation and manufacturing support as well as rapid prototyping tool.
As telecom industry shifts toward more open and efficient network architectures, Picocom and TI’s partnership is a significant step in expediting 5G Open RAN technology deployment. This could speed up access to advanced small cell solutions in the market and further advance global connectivity.
What is Open RAN
Open RAN, or Open Radio Access Network, is a network architecture concept used in the telecommunications industry, primarily in the context of mobile networks like 4G and 5G. It aims to disaggregate or open up the traditionally proprietary and integrated radio access network components into interoperable and standardized elements. In a traditional RAN, network operators typically purchase all the network equipment (such as base stations and radios) from a single vendor, which results in vendor lock-in and limits flexibility.
Key features and concepts of Open RAN include:
- Standardization: Open RAN relies on open standards, specifications, and interfaces, making it easier for various vendors to provide compatible network equipment. Industry organizations like the O-RAN Alliance and Telecom Infra Project (TIP) play a role in defining these standards.
- Disaggregation: Open RAN separates the hardware and software components of the RAN. This allows network operators to mix and match components from different vendors, fostering competition and innovation.
- Virtualization: Open RAN often includes virtualization technologies, such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). This enables the network functions to run on standard hardware or in cloud-based environments.
- Interoperability: Open RAN components are designed to work seamlessly together, regardless of the vendor, promoting interoperability and avoiding vendor lock-in.
- Flexibility: Network operators can choose the best-in-class components for their specific needs, leading to more flexibility in network design and optimization.
- Cost-Efficiency: Open RAN is expected to reduce the overall cost of network deployment and maintenance through competition and the use of off-the-shelf hardware.
- Innovation: By opening up the network architecture, Open RAN encourages innovation from various vendors and startups, potentially leading to faster technology advancements.
Open RAN is particularly relevant for the deployment of 5G networks, where the demand for increased capacity and flexibility is high. It allows operators to deploy and manage their networks more efficiently, lower costs, and adapt to changing market dynamics. However, it also comes with challenges, such as ensuring security, maintaining performance, and managing the complexity of a multi-vendor ecosystem.