Vodafone has partnered with UK-based Salience Labs and Spain-based iPronics to explore the potential of silicon photonic chips for open radio access network (RAN). Vodafone’s engineers at its research and development (R&D) centre in Málaga, Spain, are exploring the potential for new silicon photonic chips to become the hardware of choice to drive the customer-focused mobile networks of the future.  This applies particularly to higher-capacity open RANs.

According to Vodafone, the photonic chips would sit at the heart of its mobile base stations, providing an ultra-low latency, highly programmable and greener network.  Their integration would support the massive advances in computation seen in new technologies like generative artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity (including quantum computing), and autonomous vehicles.

Salience Labs and iPronics are assisting Vodafone in testing the latest silicon photonics, which has the potential to process and deliver huge amounts of data faster but still securely, without compromising the customer experience or requiring more masts. Salience Labs is building silicon photonic solutions to overcome the challenge that the growth in AI presents to the movement of data in a world where traditional semiconductor technology can no longer scale higher to keep pace with innovation. Vodafone’s work with iPronics within the field of radio frequency beamforming – the ability to bend and direct a signal to its intended recipient such as a smartphone user – ensures that all aspects (the antenna and the actual baseband equipment) of a mobile base station are covered.  

As per Vodafone, by collaborating with vendors such as Salience Labs and iPronics, it can drive silicon innovation in Europe and strengthen its position in the global market.