Since the beginning of the year, I have had the opportunity to speak to EdgeQ founder and CEO Vinay Ravuri on two occasions. Ravuri is a former Qualcomm executive who cut his teeth early in his career at Alcatel/Lucent and eventually at Nokia as a software architect and engineer. The experience of his executive leadership team, which includes former Intel and Broadcom employees, is equally deep.
The company initially caught my attention at GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona when it was awarded the event’s highly coveted CTO Choice Award for 2023. I have previously served as a Global Mobile (GLOMO) Awards judge at MWC, and I can attest that this is a significant accomplishment. Consequently, when the EdgeQ team contacted me following MWC, I wanted to learn more and share my insights.
Who is EdgeQ?
EdgeQ was founded in 2018 and now has five years of development effort under its belt—quite a significant period in the tech industry. I often joke with colleagues that time in tech is equivalent to dog years, with a calendar year equating to five or more in other sectors.
Given the length of EdgeQ’s development runway, it expects to be shipping its base station–on-a-chip in the second half of 2023. A system-on-a-chip (SoC) is a silicon design incorporating all the necessary functional elements for a device or a platform on a single integrated circuit. EdgeQ is leveraging an SoC design that integrates 4G and 5G functionality along with an AI engine that can scale in performance and evolve its features thanks to being programmable via software upgrades. I find its blended architectural design fascinating, so let’s go deeper under the hood!
A compelling architectural design
EdgeQ utilizes a hybrid architecture consisting of both a RISC-V and Arm processor that collapses a traditional rack of base station communications equipment into a small silicon envelope. RISC-V is a highly customizable and scalable architecture ideal for specialized applications. On the other hand, Arm has an architectural reputation for balancing low power consumption and high performance.
It's an interesting combination, but EdgeQ uses this dynamic duo to deliver tremendous functionality in its base station–on-a-chip. The device can support open radio access network (ORAN) distributed unit (DU), radio unit (RU) and compute unit (CU) functionalities, plus function as a viable platform for both macro cells and small cells. For the latter, Qualcomm has been one of the only big players in the small- and macro-cell space, moving upmarket from mobile devices into infrastructure with its Snapdragon SoC products. It’s something that I’ve written about in the past too.
EdgeQ claims it has the only multi-mode 4G and 5G converged SoC offering that bundles production-grade physical layer (PHY) software to manage the requisite protocols and functionality. That is compelling because it is a complete solution that could enable a low-power, small-footprint, high-performance infrastructure device that can function in both 4G and 5G modes. This should allow operators to achieve significant savings in capital and operational expenses as they support existing 4G and new 5G deployments—and thereby greatly multiply the potential that ORAN represents with its disaggregated, industry-standard approach to traditional RAN hardware.
If that wasn't enough, EdgeQ also integrates an AI engine that monitors radio frequency (RF) spectrum, optimizes beam-forming patterns and 5G massive MIMO scheduling and facilitates RF spectrum monitoring. As the saying goes, big things sometimes do come in small packages, and it seems that EdgeQ is delivering on multiple fronts.
Silicon Valley is filled with startups, many of which are vying for "unicorn" status—highly valued and rare. EdgeQ could be on that path as a mature startup that has recently impressed the investment community with its technical capabilities. In mid-April, the company added $75 million in funding to aid its ongoing development and upcoming market launch efforts. It also landed Jim Anderson, CEO of Lattice Semiconductor, as a strategic adviser on its board of directors. From my perspective, those are all positive signs that point to the disruptive potential that EdgeQ could bring to the RAN market.