Counterpoint Conversations – Picocom Leading Open RAN Innovation with RISC-V Technology

Small cell solutions provider Picocom is making innovative use of RISC-V processors in the Open RAN market. Committed to open standards, Picocom’s innovative solution offers a unique value proposition. Gareth Owen, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research, sat down with Picocom CEO Peter Clayton at MWC 2024 in Barcelona to discuss the company’s product portfolio that includes PC802 and PC805, its differentiation strategy and target markets.

The interview

Key takeaways from the discussion

Picocom’s USP and product differentiation:

• Unlike incumbents like Huawei and Ericsson, who design their own SoCs for their RAN products, Picocom focuses on Open RAN, offering small cell SoCs to cater to the needs of smaller OEMs in the market.
• By leveraging RISC-V cores, Picocom offers open standard processors, which helps its customers avoid vendor lock-ins.

Product portfolio and software solutions:

• PC802 is Picocom’s first chip and has been in the market for around two years now, catering to the physical layer of baseband processing for several applications and use cases.
• PC805 is the newly launched SoC featuring an integrated radio transceiver, and initial samples have been shipped to the customers already.
• The PC805 development board comes with a complete Open RAN Radio Unit (O-RU) enabling high-power output.
• When it comes to software, Picocom offers both source code and binary code licensing, thus enabling customers to choose the level of customization to suit their specific needs.

Target markets:

• Picocom has global presence through partnerships and system integrators, but most of its OEM customers are in Asia, including China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. However, these OEMs sell their products globally.
• It is also seeing demand from European and North American markets.
• After launching the PC805, Picocom is also seeing significant interest in O-RUs for both indoor and outdoor applications.

Analyst takeaways:

• Picocom is pioneering a range of Open RAN-based small cell SoC solutions and to date have launched two RISC-V based chipsets.
• The PC802 is a flexible silicon solution that is equally suitable for traditional LTE/5G NR distributed architecture. It can be used for a wide range of applications, including indoor residential, enterprise and industrial networks, as well as neutral host network applications.
• The PC805 chip is the first SoC optimized for 5G O-RUs. It interfaces with a DU as part of O-RAN Split 7.2x via an open fronthaul eCPRI interface and supports seamless connections to RFICs, with the option of also using standard JESD204B high-speed serial interfaces.

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