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5G network virtualization and interoperability: Why the time is now

Oct 20, 2020

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

One of the most exciting elements of the Qualcomm 5G Summit is that it offers a chance to explore the next wave of possibilities in 5G innovation. 5G commercialization is moving into the mainstream as more than 90 operators in over 40 countries have launched 5G services. A key aspect of these launches is the new level of complexity 5G brings to the mobile network. With the amount of spectrum available for 5G, networks are integrating both Sub-6 GHz and mmWave to achieve the capacity and coverage needed to power numerous applications and services, enable new business uses such as fixed wireless access and address growing enterprise needs including the use of private 5G networks.

With all of the above, there is a clear need for more scalable and flexible network infrastructure that can deliver on the wide array of use cases and opportunities envisioned for 5G. In parallel, the trend of software virtualization continues to be stronger in telecommunication networks. This is why mobile operators and network equipment vendors are finding that solutions with virtualized RAN (vRAN) and interoperable interfaces are becoming a key tool to address 5G needs, while still requiring optimized System-on-Chip (SoC) solutions to support processing loads and high data rates that comes with features like 5G Sub-6 GHz massive MIMO and mmWave.

At Qualcomm Technologies, we’re always working toward ways to take wireless systems to new heights. That’s why we are now building on our 5G leadership to create the network semiconductor technology that will support the transition toward virtualized and interoperable networks.

Qualcomm Technologies has a proven heritage of delivering solutions for infrastructure, which is why today we’re announcing new offerings in our 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) Platform portfolio: the Qualcomm Radio Unit (QRU) Platform, the Qualcomm Distributed Unit (QDU) Platform, and the Qualcomm Distributed Radio (QDR) Unit Platform. The Qualcomm Radio Unit Platform is an SoC solution that addresses aspects from the low physical layer and RF transceivers to the RF front-end and antennas. The Qualcomm Distributed Unit is the baseband processor with integrated concurrent sub-6 GHz and mmWave support. In case of a more compact design, when combined, both units form the Qualcomm Distributed Radio Unit Platform.

Scalable platforms for diverse needs

The Qualcomm 5G RAN Platforms are designed to provide emerging and established network infrastructure vendors with a comprehensive horizontal semiconductor infrastructure platform to support the deployment of high-performance, virtualized, interoperable, and modular 5G networks at scale – making cellular infrastructure more innovative and competitive. Here are key highlights of these platforms:

  • Designed from Macro to Small Cells

These platforms are highly scalable and designed for broad deployment scenarios, ranging from macro high capacity base stations with massive MIMO to micro base stations with compact designs complementing our current 5G RAN platform offerings for small cells.

  • High performance Modem-RF

Designed for enhanced radio performance including high-power, high capacity operation, the Qualcomm 5G RAN Platforms feature a comprehensive 5G Modem-RF System including baseband, transceiver, front-end, and antenna panels.

  • Virtualization with hardware acceleration

The Qualcomm 5G RAN Platforms incorporate dedicated built-in hardware accelerators for high-performance virtualization. vRAN is based on the use of off-the-shelf servers. However, some processing for 5G stack requires very low latency and high-performance dedicated hardware processing in order to satisfy the demand of high capacity needs, such as Massive MIMO deployments. Our solution is designed to allow the software to offload some of these technologies to built-in hardware accelerators.

  • Flexible, scalable, interoperable interfaces

Support for all key 5G functional split options between our Distributed Unit (DU) and our Radio Unit (RU), to allow for the disaggregation of the RAN into standards-based and interoperable modular components.

  • Integrated Sub-6 and mmWave solution

5G is designed to make use of a wide array of spectrum frequencies to provide the capacity and capabilities required for the next decade and beyond. Qualcomm 5G RAN Platforms portfolio is designed to offer integrated Sub-6 GHz and mmWave concurrent baseband support in our Distributed Unit, along with support for 5G sub-6 GHz, mmWave, and 4G bands in our Radio Unit.

Together, these platforms can foster infrastructure to scale from citywide deployments to stores, industrial IoT, and manufacturing plants.

Why now is the time to add to our RAN portfolio

Today’s transition to 5G is driving demand for virtualized, and interoperable cellular infrastructure. The new additions to Qualcomm 5G RAN Platforms portfolio provide a foundation that is designed to enable existing vendors to complement their existing product portfolio and build and commercialize their products quickly, as well as open a path for emerging infrastructure players. Our new Qualcomm 5G RAN Platforms can offer vendors high performance with high capacity and power efficiency plus the scalability to support a wide range of infrastructure categories.

By disaggregating former monolithic RAN implementations into interoperable modular components, the entire system can scale well to meet the demands of 5G networks of the future.

With our expanded portfolio, we are providing vendors, mobile operators, and other key stakeholders the tools to accelerate the deployment of high-performance, virtualized, and interoperable 5G networks at scale, and to realize a new vision for cellular networks. Call it Infrastructure 2.0. Supporting the marketplace for such new infrastructure is how we play our part as the world’s leading wireless technology innovator and the driving force behind the development, launch, and expansion of 5G for everyone in the ecosystem.



Qualcomm 5G RAN Platforms, Qualcomm Radio Unit Platform, Qualcomm Distributed Unit Platform and Qualcomm Distributed Radio Unit Platform are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.


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Durga Prasad Malladi

Senior Vice President & GM, 4G/5G, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

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