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Pegatron to offer one-stop-shop 5G O-RAN service using Microsoft Azure

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Credit: DIGITIMES

In 2019, Pegatron Corporation officially founded its O-RAN technology team as a successor to its highly successful x86 design legacy. The new team is dedicated to the development of 5G O-RAN CU and DU base station products. The company also hopes to enter the 5G network scene by providing one-stop-shop 5G O-RAN solutions that target everything from multi-access edge computing (MEC), network administration, to network applications.

To this end, Pegatron has invested considerable R&D resources into its hardware and software solutions as well as kept close working relationships with major international vendors, among which includes Microsoft, a key strategic partner for many Pegatron projects. Pegatron and Microsoft have already entered into multiple major collaboration frameworks for 5G O-RAN such as the Affirmed 5GC core network, the Azure IoT Edge implementation in Pegatron products, and more recently a collaborative project that massively boosts Taiwanese digital resilience. The project is the result of the joint collaboration from Pegatron, Microsoft, Wave-In Communication, and the Hsinchu City Government to create a disaster relief application package that uses the Azure Space satellite communication service as the underlying framework. The application package will remain operational during power outages caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons, ensuring that the communication protocols used by police and firefighters remain available at all times and that emergency relief services are not interrupted.

Building smart factories using proprietary Pegatron base stations and MECs

Pegatron says that since the company founded its O-RAN team, they have been utilizing their accumulated x86 hardware development energy and long-time partnerships with international vendors to create a proprietary PEGATRON branded stand O-RAN 5G base station. Besides product development, the O-RAN team has also been tasked with two important goals. The first is to help the company set up its basic 5G infrastructure to support distributed global production bases, while the second is to implement 5G applications within the company to accelerate internal digital transformation efforts.

The PEGATRON base station comes equipped with a variety of important features. For example, it supports network function virtualization infrastructure (NFVI), making it compatible with the cloud infrastructure standards laid out in O-RAN, allowing for vastly improved system usability and expandability. It is also worth noting that the Affirmed Networks Standalone (SA) core network, which is part of the Azure for Operators suite, is also built on a virtualized SA core network and virtualized wireless testing platform, making it perfectly compatible with the PEGATRON base station. This means that point-to-point application solutions in dedicated 5G enterprise networks using the PEGATRON base station will be able to retain even greater flexibility and adaptability with different hardware in an even wider array of environments. Pegatron also designed its 5G O-RAN enterprise network in accordance with the 3GPP standard and incorporated support for MEC servers to more effectively make use of the high bandwidth and low latency of the 5G protocol.

It is estimated that Pegatron's O-RAN team will be able to accomplish two major milestone goals by the end of 2021. The first is to finish deployment of the proprietary O-RAN base stations for the 5G enterprise network in Pegatron's demonstration factory by the year's end. The second is to have Pegatron products pass domestic product inspections alongside the National Development Council's plan to construct an Open Testing and Integration Centre (OTIC) laboratory and establish product standards for domestically manufactured base stations.

As for Pegatron's factories, they produce thousands of different products each year and are constantly undergoing production line adjustments. Physical wiring constraints from the past age of ethernet connections have made such adjustments major rewiring projects that can take upwards of 2 to 3 weeks. But now with 5G infrastructure becoming standard within the company, factories are expected to be able to complete production line adjustments in as short as 2 to 3 days. Wireless 5G technology will also assist the company with the collection of big data in its production lines, allowing for constant analysis and optimization as all production statistics become digitized. The high bandwidth of 5G technology will also allow Pegatron to implement AI visual recognition quality inspection solutions that are constantly optimized through deep learning on MEC servers to conduct simultaneous mounting, assembly, and overall visual quality testing on finished motherboard products.

A completed 5G application ecosystem with Microsoft Azure integration

With Pegatron entering the Microsoft ecosystem, many Azure cloud services are also becoming easily accessible for both Pegatron and its clients. Currently, the PEGATRON base station is already supported by the Azure for Operators suite (a cloud native 5G core network). Since the suite is considered a mature product in overseas markets, this will make the PEGATRON base station a trusted and preferred product for many clients, shortening its time-to-market duration. At the same time, many artificial intelligence applications in recent years have turned to the Azure Applied AI service to reduce their edge computation complexity by containerizing their linguistic, visual, or audio processing. The trend has significantly cut down on development time, allowing for faster market expansion through accelerated 5G solution deployment.

By contrast, Pegatron has found itself lacking in application know-how to implement point-to-point 5G O-RAN solutions despite being highly capable in the field of hardware development. This is why the company has turned to the massive Azure ecosystem for answers by using the Azure IoT Device suite as the first step in the company's plan to integrate Azure services into its fold. The most notable example of this would be the IoT Device Management function offered by Azure IoT Edge. The management utility can be used to remotely test smart factory deployments located in any corner of the globe, making it a perfect fit for smart factories application scenarios

Pegatron also hopes to integrate the Azure Stack HCI to enhance its server cluster features. The company plans to integrate its services with the Azure Stack Hub to satisfy mass computation demands for edge computation.

Pegatron's latest Azure Space integration package has also been an media darling in recent news. The service will not only allow disaster response teams to utilize domestic 5G O-RAN base stations to keep internal communication channels clear during times of emergency but also ensure external communication availability by working with Microsoft's satellites. Both of these measures will significantly enhance the overall digital resilience of the communication infrastructure in Taiwan.

Last but not least, another surprising revelation from Pegatron came during the virtually held Mobile World Conference in June. The company debuted a single server simultaneously connected to two DUs, allowing for exceptional computation resource efficiency and reaching download bandwidths of up to 1.7 Gbps and upload bandwidths of up to 400 Mbps. In the future, Pegatron will continue to invest in 5G O-RAN to provide customers with comprehensive solutions, accelerate deployment of innovative applications, and ultimately help partners realize a vision of a digitally transformed enterprise.

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