Marvell is unveiling its next-gen platform for 5G networks and is doing so with a twist. The company is showing off a range of solutions that are designed for different parts of the 5G market. With the latest announcement, the new Marvell O-RAN platform includes a standardized reference model in combination with Analog Devices as well as several models for different deployment models.
Marvell O-RAN Platform for 5G Networks
We previously covered new Marvell OCTEON TX2 and Fusion CNF95xx 5G SoCs this year that are designed to be customized and sold by large players. Marvell is looking at its silicon portfolio and realizing that it can go beyond just building silicon for the largest players and that it can play a larger role in different deployment scenarios.
The Marvell Octeon Fusion-O for radio units and distributed units handle many of the radio and L1 functionality required to operate a 5G network. The aforementioned Octeon TX2 along with the company’s Prestera 7K switches designed for metro carrier networks provide the next-level functionality for an O-RAN platform.
Indeed, Marvell is showing two different models that it aims to support. One is a disaggregated O-RAN model which has a lot of momentum. The company is also showing its vRAN offload model which puts many of the components from the disaggregated O-RAN model onto PCIe cards and is designed for a virtualized environment.
Going beyond just offering chips, Marvell is getting into some system design. For the O-RAN 7.2 split, the company is partnering with Analog Devices to deliver a reference design for a massive MIMO O-RAN radio unit. This is a 32T32R unit that has all of the design work, down to the sheet metal, that a customer can bring to a manufacturer and have built. The concept is that customers can take this unit, perhaps do the last 5-10% of customization, and have a 32T32R system deployed quickly.
This mMIMO radio unit Marvell does not have all of the IP for, so it is partnering with Analog Devices to set a gold standard in O-RAN radio units. Going beyond the radio unit Marvell has the additional base station distributed unit in either traditional or virtualized forms along with the central unit.
The 5G build-out will continue to push ahead in 2021, making these platforms for next-year’s deployments a new push.
Beyond the immediate impact of the 5G O-RAN solutions from Marvell, there are a few key takeaways. Marvell is partnering with Analog Devices to bring full reference designs to market. This is key to move some customers away from the proprietary gear used in traditional build-outs. It also puts extensive pressure on some of the segments currently serviced by FPGAs such as we covered in Xilinx T1 FPGA for ORAN Baseband Units. The FPGA makers are trying to harden more logic to make their offerings attractive for the next-generation of 5G buildout as environments mature. Marvell is pushing its purpose-built chips into the same market to displace FPGAs from roles they have played in 5G networks to date. Robust competition is a good thing for this market.