Intel asks Cellwize to CHIME in to boost 5G vRAN

Artificial Intelligence
The integration will help make the RAN smarter and enable more efficient operations, an Intel exec told Fierce. (Pixabay)

Intel teamed with automation and orchestration company Cellwize Wireless Technologies to boost 5G vRAN deployments, adding support for the latter’s CHIME network optimization platform on its Xeon Scalable processors and FlexRAN reference software.

Born out of a collaboration with Verizon in July 2020, Cellwize’s CHIME platform uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate RAN optimization, weighing a variety of factors to enable more efficient design and operation of cell sites.

Cristina Rodriguez, VP and GM of the Wireless Access Network Division at Intel, told Fierce that integrating CHIME with its FlexRAN platform will open the door to “new innovations that are going to make the RAN smarter, that are going to provide an intelligent RAN that can make decisions so operators don’t have to overprovision their network and they can be very efficient and they can have the best total cost of ownership. That’s the idea.”

Cellwize CEO Ofir Zemer added in a statement the move will enable operators to deploy vRAN faster and reduce “operating expenses to configure and activate cell sites.”

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Mobile Experts principal analyst Joe Madden told Fierce he doesn’t necessarily think “merchant AI tools will have much impact on the pace of vRAN deployment right now, but they will have an impact on the performance of vRAN farther down the line.” He added such “AI-based optimization will come into play in order to extract higher performance from the hybrid network.”

In late 2020, Intel’s investment arm Intel Capital joined a handful of other big-name telecom players in backing Cellwize financially, leading a $32 million Series B funding round alongside Qualcomm Ventures. Verizon and Samsung’s investment divisions also participated.

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Intel has staked out a key position in the vRAN market, with Rodriguez highlighting “tremendous momentum” behind the technology and noting its FlexRAN software now has more than 100 licensees. She pointed to Intel’s work on vRAN with Verizon and Dish Network in the U.S., Rakuten in Japan and Deutsche Telekom in Europe as examples of its pole position.

In a blog posted on Monday, Dan Rodriguez, GM of Intel’s network platforms group, claimed “nearly all commercial vRAN deployments are running on Intel technology” today. In the coming years, the company expects vRAN base station deployments to ramp from hundreds to hundreds of thousands and eventually millions, he added.

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Madden also predicted “strong growth” in vRAN deployments over the next two years. “Essentially the market is changing from a few greenfield networks to some major operator networks during 2021 so we will see a major shift in the scale of deployment this year," he said.