As the open 5G trend provides new opportunities for a crowd of RAN and core start-ups and specialists, so a wave of consolidation can be expected as they establish their positions in the nascent market. Some will be acquired by larger companies, while others will merge with one another to offer more rounded solutions.
Sounding the starting bell is Mavenir, which was itself formed from the merger of three companies, and which is prominent in early trials of open, disaggregated and virtualized core and RAN. Now the company is to acquire a veteran of the small cell market, UK-based ip.access.
Although Mavenir has positioned itself mainly as a software provider, developing virtual network functions that run on off-the-shelf servers and on partners’ radios, the acquisition of a well-established small cell hardware architecture will enable it to offer an integrated solution where customers want that. Despite the attractions of open multivendor networks, many smaller operators and enterprises support open interfaces mainly to enable them to swap to a new vendor in future, if they want to, rather than to include multiple suppliers from the start, with the integration challenges that can bring.
Another important advantage ip.access brings to Mavenir is support for 2G, 3G and 4G, as well as 5G-ready, technologies. In Europe in particular, the ability to support legacy networks – which many operators plan to retain for many years – is a barrier to choosing new vendors which may only have products for 4G and 5G. Among the companies flocking to the O-RAN standard, Parallel Wireless, with its ‘All-G’ portfolio, has been able to promise a multi-RAT approach, while Samsung has not.
With the latest purchase, Mavenir believes it has stepped ahead of Parallel by offering both top-to-bottom (hardware/software) and end-to-end (RAN/core capabilities). Aniruddho Basu, general manager of emerging business at Mavenir, told FierceWireless:
“Mavenir has the full end-to-end network stack while Parallel Wireless is a specific domain player for radio access ….That said, with the acquisition, Mavenir’s radio and RAN portfolio will become a unified Multi-G single RAN approach based on Open RAN principles across 2G to 5G.”
It is not just Europe where long term support for legacy networks may be required – Mavenir also sees such demand in rural markets in the USA and elsewhere, and in the enterprise.
The ip.access portfolio enhances the enterprise play too – the company has recently focused on several key verticals such as retail and utilities, and has developed a small cell platform that enables neutral host deployments, especially in the USA’s CBRS shared spectrum.
Nick Johnson, founder and CTO of ip.access, said in a statement: “It’s not just consumer services anymore, but industrial private networks, professional closed group networks for financial, healthcare, leisure and hospitality, among many others. We look forward to applying our long experience in private networks to complement Mavenir’s existing portfolio in serving this hugely expanded customer base”
ip.access will operate as a business unit within Mavenir’s Emerging Business group and will add about 115 people to its payroll of over 4,000. The US company also gains more than 50 operator customers and hundreds of enterprise users.
“One of the things we found most attractive about ip.access was the software centricity of the portfolio approach. They’ve driven a lot of innovation, even in the hardware-oriented small cell industry, on the software stack and that’s something that aligned with our DNA,” said Basu.