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Marvell to supply chips for Facebook-backed 5G effort

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March 1 (Reuters) - Marvell Technology Group Ltd said on Monday its chips will be included in a project from Facebook Inc designed to make it easier and cheaper to deploy 5G networking equipment.

In the past, telecommunications gear tended to come from a handful of major players such as Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei Technologies Ltd, who supplied everything from software to run the networks to gear for radio towers, along with custom chips inside the gear.

But companies like Facebook, the social networking giant that maintains a business focused on improving internet infrastructure, have pushed for what are called open radio-access networks, which are made up of software and hardware designs that can be mixed and matched and are sometimes free to use. The goal is to lower costs.

Facebook has focused on developing software for the open networks while partnering with hardware companies to come up with designs for hardware. Marvell on Monday said it had partnered with Facebook on a circuit board design for what is known as a "distributed unit," or DU, which sits near the bottom of a cell tower to crunch data coming in through the tower's radio units.

The design will be free for telecommunications firms to use, but contains multiple Marvell processors. The move is aimed at making it easier for telecommunications firms to get networks up and running because the design work is already done, while at the same time helping Marvell sell more chips.

"What we are designing for Facebook is a system that anyone, in the fullness of time, can deploy," Raj Singh, executive vice president of the processors business group at Marvell, said in an interview. (Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Bernadette Baum)