Accelleran provides OpenRAN Software solutions for operators of 5G networks.
Smart devices are everywhere, all transmitting data via a network so we can access our email, stream content, live in a smart home, or automate a factory through Internet of Things (IoT). An optimal experience requires fast response times, high data throughput possibilities and a reliable network. Delivering on these requirements, 5G promises to usher in a new era. This technology is particularly powerful in combination with edge computing, an approach that brings data processing closer to the user. This will enable applications that require particularly low latency and high data speeds, such as autonomous vehicles, VR/AR, artificial intelligence (AI), and will unleash the true potential of IoT devices.
An essential component of a telecom network is the radio access network (RAN), which connects users to the mobile network via radio waves. In a traditional radio network, several of the functionalities required for operation are implemented through dedicated hardware. Recently, there has been a push to virtualize these functionalities through software so that cheaper, common-of-the-shelf hardware can be used for implementation. To increase flexibility and stimulate innovation, different market players started working on a software standard aimed at the separation of hardware and software, known as Open RAN. The Open RAN model aims to undo the siloed nature of the RAN market and allows a service provider to combine hardware and software from different vendors. On top of that, Open RAN leverages cloud-native and microservices architectures and deployment models bring all the advantages of cloud technology and economics. This incentivizes network equipment vendors (e.g. Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei) to offer more competitive pricing and innovate, as well as reduces the barrier of entry for new players. One of these new entrants is Accelleran, providing Open RAN software solutions for operators of 5G networks.
Accelleran’s flagship dRAX product will facilitate the roll-out of Open RAN-based 5G networks and is particularly attractive for the deployment of private networks. dRAX is built to give an operator of a (private) network the ability to better tailor the network functionalities and fully control its traffic e.g. by enabling the development of custom-made applications. dRAX can be deployed as an Entreprise application leveraging all cloud, edge, virtualization and IT automation tools that IT departments are used to. Leveraging AI and big data, these apps can address specific needs such as increased reliability for certain data streams or smarter handovers. As Frederic Van Durme, Accelleran’s CEO explains “When you are driving on the highway, your phone will be handed over from one cell tower to the other. Now, in the context of 5G use cases such as moving robots in a warehouse, this handover needs to be highly reliable. At the same time, this warehouse network might have other simultaneous network needs for other applications, such as low latency and guaranteed bandwidth. Adapting these critical radio networks to such a specific combination of needs is now possible with these open software layers and the applications that you can put on top, whereas previously this was a very closed environment owned by a limited number of vendors.”
It allowed us to show that AI for networks is here now, and not in five to ten years.
To further extend the current dRAX platform with such AI-tools needed to manage the increasing complexity of 5G networks, Accelleran collaborates with the IDLab of the University of Antwerp and imec. This group, comprising about 100 scientists, is led by Prof. Steven Latré and focuses on (wireless) networking and machine learning. Their expertise is internationally recognized, with Steven’s team landing an impressive sixth place and $ 1.5M in prize money in the highly competitive DARPA Spectrum Challenge, based on an AI and networking solution jointly developed with Ghent University and Rutgers University. IDLab in Antwerp then went on to showcase a practical application, integrated in the Accelleran dRAX platform, hereof - their smart handover solution - at the Mobile World Congress. According to Steven “For us, this was the first demonstration that AI can be applied, specifically on a commercial platform such as the dRAX platform. It allowed us to show that AI for networks is here now, and not in five to ten years.” Their collaboration only continued to strengthen and recently evolved into a joint lab that will develop new AI algorithms for RANs. As Steven elaborates “I think we hold all the right cards - our joint AI RAN lab, the complementary experience in wireless networks and AI, as well as the innovating environment including a.o. the numerous industries looking for IoT solutions in the Port of Antwerp - to ensure that we can realize something really innovative and crucial for 5G.”
We want to get to a world where the RAN becomes fully virtualized and software-based. Our aim is to become a global provider of these software components.
Alongside historical investors, Qbic II invested in the 2021 funding round of Accelleran. As Frederic reflects on this experience ”Qbic definitely helped in solidifying our relationship with IDLab and setting up the joint RAN AI lab. Overall, I must say that we did not encounter many VCs that understand what we try to do and that could get the conversation going. This was the case with Qbic though. We had productive discussions on the technology itself, and not only on the financial figures.” Besides expanding globally, the company will continue to develop new software solutions. Frederic elaborates “We want to get to a world where the RAN becomes fully virtualized and software-based. Our aim is to become a global provider of these software components. And the market is moving there, as when it comes to the technology, the only way to master the complexity that comes with 5G’s promised potential, is to open up and modernize the architecture.”
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