Vodafone recently unveiled a prototype of a 5G network built on a Raspberry Pi personal computer. The goal is to provide households and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) with a small-sized 5G coverage extension and capacity increase, which will be affordable and easily transportable, and compact in the meantime. Moreover, mobile private networks (MPNs) will be more accessible, taking into consideration Vodafone’s 5G network in Europe, all combined with the ability to adapt and the simplicity of the Raspberry Pi computer. The 5G network prototype was developed at Vodafone’s European R&D Center in Málaga. The device is small in size, comparable to a Wi-Fi router at home, meaning that users can easily set a private 5G network anywhere, or extend their 5G coverage.
According to Vodafone, an MPN present a private, reliable, fast, and exceptionally secure alternative to public mobile networks especially for businesses, together with providing a cost-effective solution. Currently, this possibility is primarily used by large enterprises, where multiple devices, machines, and/or vehicles have to be connected.
As said by Vodafone’s Director of Network Architecture, Santiago Tenorio, “We looked at what Raspberry Pi did for computing, in terms of making it more accessible to people of all ages, and we wanted to do the same with 5G.” Furthermore, he also added that “Whilst this is just a prototype, it has the potential to bring new cloud, AI and big data technologies within reach of many of the small businesses we support across Europe. The next step is to take ideas like this to a place where they can be developed and eventually produced. Our door is open to interested vendors.”
The 5G network prototype presents a combination of a Raspberry Pi 4 and a Software-Defined Radio (SDR) circuit board, which is 5G compatible. The SDR circuit board is manufactured by Lime Microsystems, a UK-based company. Moreover, this prototype can be used with any computer that can run software that is compatible with Open Radio Access Network (RAN), as the circuit board is compliant with RAN standards.