What is OpenRF?

What is the OpenRF Association? Why was it created? Who are its members?

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- everything RF

May 1, 2021

The Open RF Association (OpenRF) is an industry consortium dedicated to creating a 5G ecosystem of functionally interoperable hardware and software across multi-mode RF Front End and chipset platforms. This kind of interoperable ecosystem improves Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) time-to-market, enhances operational benefits and reduces overall costs while allowing for architectural flexibility and customization to enable end product differentiation. OpenRF was created in response to customer demand for open architectures that standardize hardware and software interfaces without limiting innovation while enabling total flexibility for 5G device OEMs.

OpenRF was founded by a diverse group of global chipset manufacturers and RF front end vendors like Broadcom Inc., Intel Corporation, MediaTek Inc., Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Qorvo, and Samsung. It is a non-exclusive environment with membership open to mobile RF IC, RF front end, OEM vendors and related industry companies. Click here to see all the members.

The RF Front End market has become extremely complex, so the industry increasingly needs structure to deal with the complexity. Handset OEMs are faced with a bewildering assortment of different RF components, where each vendor has slightly different voltage settings, register usage, and other details that are not key to overall performance. By standardizing some common elements, the Open RF Association will allow these vendors to focus their R&D attention on the sharp point of innovation. Making common building blocks in non-competitive areas will also speed up time-to-market, ensure compatibility across generations and between different platforms, and will save millions of dollars through improved economies of scale. All of this is possible without diminishing the fierce competition between vendors. As we enter the 5G era, it’s important to simplify the interoperability of RF devices so that an OEM can put together a complete RF frontend quickly and easily.

OpenRF supports the interests of 5G OEMs by maintaining an open and interoperable ecosystem between chipsets and RF front end by meeting market demands for open interfaces enabling RF front end scale across platforms. It also provides an industry platform for smartphone, automotive and IoT OEMs to enable best practices. These are aimed at achieving a reduction in the complexity, time, and costs of building a smartphone.

Broad benefits of the OpenRF effort include R&D savings across all three parts of the ecosystem, faster time to market and more simplicity for OEMs, improved economy of scale, and reduced risks and inventory costs.

R&D savings at 3 levels 

The smartphone industry and RF front-end (RFFE) suppliers spend a large amount of money each year on R&D. Modem suppliers spend even more on interfacing with the RFFE community and developing RF features. A large amount is also spent by OEMs to integrate these components. For each group of companies, a common set of interfaces and building blocks can save this huge amount in R&D spending and application development.

Time to Market 

One of the biggest unknowns in the smartphone industry is the uncertainty surrounding a project. Cooperation between the RF front-end suppliers can remove risk from the list of possible problems. OpenRF reduces the risk of risks in the later stages of product development where the cost of rectifying the problem is the highest. In essence, if the modem-to-RF interface is pre-qualified, the number of possible errors can be reduced to great extents.

Economy of Scale 

As there are thousands of different product variations, semiconductor suppliers and OEMs need to manage a vast inventory constantly. OpenRF association will reduce the complexity of managing product variations by setting common parameters for MIPI controllers and their registers, for voltage settings on amplifiers, as well as common software APIs and RFIC commonality. Thus, the savings in 'economy of scale' involves simplification of the hardware, but also saves companies at every level of the industry in terms of specifying, coordinating, manufacturing and using different variations of similar products.

Future Innovation 

As the market is entering a new phase of innovation, the RF front-end can be adjusted and shaped dynamically to suit the actual RF channel in use, instead of an entire range of RF frequencies. This new level of innovation requires more information sharing between handset OEMs, modem vendors and RF vendors on a real time basis. OpenRF creates a venture for joint development along these lines.

The overall rationale is that OpenRF is a win-win-win scenario: OEMs, chipset vendors and RF suppliers are all expected to save costs and reduce risk.

Click here to visit the OpenRF website.

Click here to join the alliance.

Click here for the latest news about OpenRF.