Wind River helping Vodafone deliver on O-RAN future

Wind River discusses its work with Vodafone, to help in its efforts to build Europe’s first commercial Open Radio Access Networks.

Wind River – a global leader in intelligent edge software – is in the vanguard of businesses driving the digital transformation of mission-critical systems and advancing the new intelligent machine economy.

One of the areas where the company is helping usher customers into an ever-changing future is telecommunications.

“We’re constantly strategising operations for the future,” says Kevin Dallas, Wind River President and CEO. 

He says that a decade back, networks and telecoms “Were all bespoke appliances and custom hardware designed to solve different network problems”. 

But now the company is moving to a software-based paradigm. 

“With 5G and virtualised radio access networks (RAN),” explains Dallas. “This is laying the groundwork for applications such as autonomous vehicle control, drone control, and software-based factory automation.” 

Looking even further ahead, Dallas predicts that service providers will offer “a fully virtualised environment, from core to edge”, adding that this will be automated “and built on cloud-oriented architecture”.

An important area for Wind River in telecoms is its work with Open RAN (O-RAN). 

This is a new approach to building mobile networks. Traditional RAN solutions required telecoms operators to work with single suppliers, an approach that works against smaller vendors, who lack the financial muscle to build and manage RAN solutions.

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Wind River is embracing O-RAN in its work with telecoms customers, and as a result of its contributions to O-RAN including the contribution of key open-source technology, the company has been selected by customers such as Vodafone for production deployment of 5G.

“We were thrilled to be selected by Vodafone, to help in its efforts to build Europe’s first commercial O-RAN, which will be one of the largest in the world,” says Dallas. “Vodafone believes this will be the catalyst for other large-scale O-RAN deployments, and spearhead the next wave of digital transformation across Europe.”

He adds: “O-RAN is a key enabler for clients from many sectors to provide a wide array of new services to their customers. It’s an enabler of edge connectivity and machine economy, and provides the foundation for use cases such as autonomous driving, modern energy grids, autonomous and robotics.

But as well as opportunities, new technologies also bring challenges, most of which concern system integration. Vodafone recently published a white paper on the challenges of O-RAN system integration, with a call to action for ecosystem providers to integrate much earlier. 

“Instead of buying a single box from a traditional vendor multiple vendors in the ecosystem need to work together,” Dallas explains. He adds that Wind River has been working with Dell, Samsung, NEC, and Vodafone on solutions that simplify this integration process. 

By way of example, Dallas cites Wind River’s partnership with Dell, which  has seen the companies transform telecoms cloud deployments by enabling a lower friction and lower cost ability to deploy 5G.

As O-RAN technology evolves, Wind River is starting to see its value to customers from industries outside of telecoms. 

Dallas says: “Industry data suggests 70% of computing will have moved to the edge by 2026, so this is an incredible growth area. 

“Operational technology systems are becoming hyperconnected, where in the past they weren’t. This means service providers have a role in creating value around connectivity.”

Examples Dallas gives include vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, drone delivery systems, and telemedicine. 

“Distributed networks are complex, so Open RAN solutions must mitigate complexity.”

Concluding, Dallas says Wind River’s focus is on “providing ease of deployment, increased levels of automation and operational efficiency.”

Read the full Vodafone Procurement Company report HERE

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