Parallel Wireless, Inc., a provider of Open RAN solutions, announced the successful operation of its 5G Open RAN hardware-agnostic solution in the U.K. This deployment, a collaboration with Arm®, BT Group, NXP® Semiconductors, Real Wireless and the University of Bristol, with funding from the U.K.’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT/DCMS), marks a significant development in the evolution of 5G Open RAN technology.
Parallel Wireless, in partnership with the University of Bristol, deployed a 5G standalone Open RAN solution in the "5GUK testbed"—a private network built to facilitate research and innovation—situated in the picturesque Bristol Harbor. The project signifies a monumental first as it demonstrates the ability to decouple a common distributed unit (DU) software stack from the underlying compute platform and validates the approach on both the Intel® x86 and Arm® architectures, in an outdoor 5G installation.
Advancing 5G Networks Through Innovation
Parallel Wireless’s pioneering deployment of Arm GPP-based DUs in a 5G Open RAN installation offers a strategic advantage that cannot be overstated. By embracing Arm processors, the project opens the door to unprecedented flexibility, enabling operators to choose processors from a wide array of manufacturers. This move allows for a broader range of hardware options alongside the traditional x86 platforms. Such versatility not only promises cost-effective alternatives but also holds the potential for substantial energy savings, marking a significant step towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly network infrastructure. Additionally, it unlocks a wealth of supply chain options, empowering operators with the freedom to select the components that best suit their unique needs, ultimately enhancing the adaptability and resilience of their networks.
University of Bristol 5GUK Outdoor Network
This centralized deployment encompasses three cell sites in the Bristol Harbor. The outdoor installation is complemented by an additional indoor cell situated in the University of Bristol Smart Internet lab, exclusively designated for testing and monitoring purposes.
Two of the outdoor cell sites employ DUs with a Physical Layer powered by Arm-based chipsets from NXP. The third cell site leverages an Intel x86 processor.
The Parallel Wireless 5G Open RAN solution utilizes a 5G standalone core and boasts a 100 MHz bandwidth for unmatched connectivity. These sites, deployed as centralized RAN where the entire vBBU (i.e., both centralized unit (CU) & DU) operates from a remote data center and only the Radio Unit (RU) is at the cell site, serve as a private network, encompassing the following main components:
- AttoCore 5G core (capable of running on x86 and Arm processors)
- Parallel Wireless CU operating on x86 virtual Baseband Units (vBBU)
- Parallel Wireless DU operating on vBBUs using Intel x86 and NXP Layerscape® Arm® based processors
- Benetel 5G Open RAN RU operating in the n77 band.
Reinventing the 5G Landscape
This is the first-ever successful deployment of Arm-based GPP DU-PHYs in a real 5G outdoor installation, coexisting harmoniously with stations powered by alternative architectures. In collaboration with DSIT, the U.K. Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, Parallel Wireless has marked a groundbreaking milestone in the journey of Open RAN solutions.
The deployment is an outcome of Parallel Wireless receiving the DSIT grant for its innovative Proteus project, which productizes processor-agnostic RAN solutions, adaptable for Intel's x86 as well as Arm-based technologies.
The project has been operating successfully, showcasing the robust performance of the Parallel Wireless 5G Open RAN solution, ensuring a seamless experience for 5G user equipment.
Parallel Wireless President Baruch Navon expressed his enthusiasm, stating, "This remarkable achievement is a testament to Parallel Wireless's unwavering commitment to advancing open and flexible RAN solutions."
Maria Cuevas, networks research director, BT Group, said, "The success of this trial marks a positive step for Open RAN technology, demonstrating its potential to improve flexibility in the selection of the most suitable hardware technology for different radio deployment environments.”