Mavenir, Xilinx team up on open RAN massive MIMO

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The first O-RAN compliant massive MIMO 64TRX product from Mavenir and Xilinx is expected in the fourth quarter of 2021. (Getty Images)

Mavenir and Xilinx have joined forces to deliver a joint 4G/5G massive MIMO portfolio for open RAN deployments.

The first O-RAN compliant massive MIMO 64TRX product from the companies is expected in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Job Benson, VP and head of RAN Product Management at Mavenir, told Fierce the integrated solution “is more than just bringing in a massive MIMO box.”

For the collaboration, Mavenir is bringing virtualized RAN software supporting mMIMO, which runs on Mavenir’s cloud-native platform or other open RAN cloud platforms, along with systems integration expertise. Xilinx is providing the Category B O-RAN radio unit and products will use its technology platform, including RFSoC digital front end (DFE) and Versal AI for advanced beamforming.   

Rather than a basic platform for demonstrations, Mavenir and Xilinx are looking to deliver a commercially viable end-to-end open RAN massive MIMO unit for customers.  

vRAN software support for mMIMO includes the core network, centralized unit (CU), and distributed unit (DU).  Features include full digital beamforming that splits up to 16 layers, with Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO), and advanced receiver algorithms that improve uplink coverage.

“That’s an area of weakness, particularly for a lot of the TDD deployments out there in 3.5 [GHz],” Benson noted.

He said customers expect full orchestration and management, with an interface that provides performance metrics, shows provisioning parameters, and monitors for alarms, among other capabilities which will all be present. The end-to-end integration also is an essential aspect.

“It provides a full-service delivery capability, and this covers everything from program management, project management, all the way to maintaining and optimizing the network,” Benson said.

The joint solution will address C-band first, according to Xilinx WWG Business Lead Senior Director Gilles Garcia, with additional spectrum bands to follow.  With C-band up first, North America is the initial target market since the auction for mid-band spectrum wrapped up earlier this year. Europe will follow soon after, with India likely third.

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The time is right, Garcia said, not only because open RAN is a popular and growing market, but also because mMIMO is something operators are looking for.

“That’s what is pushing us to have this collaboration,” Garcia said, to deliver on the promise and service provider requirement for a high-end massive MIMO solution that provides spectral efficiency and high performance for the open RAN market. As part of the effort to deliver a competitive product, Xilinx is bringing access to integrated and custom adaptive silicon, which he said will match those high-end operator requirements.

He acknowledged some doubt in the market as to whether massive MIMO for open RAN is doable, but expressed confidence.

“Definitely we, Mavenir and Xilinx, will deliver by the end of the year a massive MIMO open RAN radio,” Garcia said.  

Part of the confidence comes from the partners showing off integration over the past 18 months in front of six operators, which provided guidance and feedback. In that timeframe, the companies brought respective improvements on the hardware and software front, he noted. And Garcia believes the forthcoming massive MIMO products will be “very competitive compared to what is available” especially in the open RAN market.

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From an O-RAN specified 7.2 functional split Category B radio perspective, John Baker SVP of Business Development at Mavenir, said their massive MIMO product with Xilinx is to be the first.  

Even among tier one vendors, not all can claim Cat-B capabilities, according to Benson. Cat-B helps improve fronthaul capabilities to ensure better use of bandwidth.

Baker also noted there’s what he categorized as “noise in the marketplace” regarding suggested roadblocks or shortcomings of open RAN, such as power consumption and security, with MIMO as just the latest.

And while Mavenir could have kept today’s announcement under wraps for the next several months, he said, “all you’ve got to do is prove that you’re doing it.”