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EdgeQ to Debut Single Chip for 5G Private Networks

EdgeQ, a startup led by former Qualcomm executives, plans to introduce its first chip for 5G private networks in the middle of this year. Before that, the company is set to hold a technology demonstration with customer Vodafone at the Mobile World Conference (MWC) in Barcelona near the end of February.

EdgeQ CEO Vinay Ravuri sat down for an interview with EE Times about the company’s plans to kickstart the 5G private network business. Some say the “Q” in EdgeQ stands for Qualcomm.

“Some people do joke, ‘It’s Qualcomm with an edge,’ and it’s Qualcomm this and that,” Ravuri said. “But no, it’s not meant to be any of those. The genesis of the company is to merge compute and connectivity together.”

EdgeQ, which will make its first commercial chip early this year with support from fab partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), expects to earn its first revenue a few months later. This month, the company plans to demonstrate how its solution works with global telecommunications provider Vodafone and ecosystem partners at MWC 2023.

“Vodafone is interested in working with EdgeQ on the open RAN (Radio Access Network) aspect,” Ravuri said. “Vodafone is interested in this because there is a huge power benefit.”

Open RAN, or O-RAN, is the final link near the antenna in a mobile network that has been opened to let operators integrate equipment from multiple vendors. Two of the EdgeQ chips on a card will replace a rack of servers in an O-RAN installation, Ravuri said.

“Often, these things sit outside in a ruggedized environment, and the space and power that is provided to that system is going to be limited. You can’t put a big shelf of a server rack under a tower. Space is a precious commodity, and we make a big dent there. We are one-tenth the space because an entire box is replaced with one card.”

EdgeQ is targeting two markets: macro cells for telcos like Vodafone and small cells for operators of 5G networks in warehouses, ports, farms and even defense installations.


No wide adoption yet

To operate a private network, finding a free cellular spectrum is the first hurdle, Bob O’Donnell, president of TECHnalysis Research, told EE Times. Most of the spectra are licensed, controlled and paid for in billions of dollars by carriers like Vodafone.

There are situations where the carriers can sublicense some of that spectrum, according to O’Donnell. The free-spectrum alternative that people are pushing hard for is Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), he added.

“CBRS has not had wide adoption just yet, and that’s a huge issue,” he said. “Because it’s unlicensed, anybody can use it, meaning two buildings right next to each other could theoretically be used in the same CBRS spectrum.”

There are still more problems with CBRS, he added. Users may buy preferred access to CBRS, but if they are near a seacoast in the U.S., the military still has the right to take over those frequencies.

EdgeQ says that its solution supports a range of spectra, from sub-6 to mmWave, as well as CBRS.

By EETimes