Nokia deploys shared 5G RAN (MORAN) with SoftBank and KDDI in Japan

Nokia today announced that it has been selected by Japanese mobile operators, SoftBank Corp. and KDDI as one of the vendors to deploy Japan’s shared RAN. This deployment will deliver 5G services to both SoftBank and KDDI subscribers in the country. Nokia will install a Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN) [1.], which will allow both companies to share the RAN while keeping core networks separate. Network sharing helps support efficient RAN deployments as base station sites and infrastructure (equipment) are shared.

Note 1. In MORAN everything in the RAN (antenna, tower, site, power) except the radios are shared between two or more network operators.

The two Japanese telcos announced plans to deploy a shared network, or a Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN), in June, using equipment from Ericsson and other vendors. We now know that Nokia is one of those other vendors.  Ericsson equipment supports network sharing using both TDD (Time Division Duplex) and FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) as well as 4G/LTE and 5G New Radio (NR).  The solution consists of Ericsson Radio System  products such as RAN Compute (base band) , radio and transport – with the powerful system on a chip, Ericsson Silicon, bringing innovative various solutions such as Ericsson Spectrum Sharing and Ericsson Uplink Booster.

KDDI and SoftBank will particularly focus on quickly building robust 5G network leveraging Ericsson Radio System products and solutions for multiple-bands. Ericsson’s future-proof network-sharing solution will significantly contribute to their nationwide network deployment of 5G and beyond.   Ericsson and the service providers have completed verifications and started to deploy the solution commercially.

Under this contract, Nokia will supply its latest AirScale products including baseband and radio platforms. Nokia’s MORAN is triple mode and covers LTE, 5G as well as Dynamic Spectrum Sharing. In particular, Nokia will provide its new generation of ReefShark System-on-Chip based plug-in cards to increase the capacity of the AirScale baseband. The new ReefShark-powered plug-in cards are easily installed and simplify the upgrade and extended operation of all AirScale deployments. They also deliver up to eight times more throughput compared to previous generations. Nokia’s modular AirScale baseband will enable SoftBank and KDDI to scale capacity flexibly and efficiently and as their 5G business evolves.

MORAN is a way for mobile operators to share radio access network infrastructure, reduce their costs, expand the coverage of their networks and achieve an efficient and effective roll-out of new technologies. The RAN uses dedicated radio frequencies assigned to each service provider ensuring they maintain independent control of their resources. Nokia supports a range of network sharing solutions suiting all operating scenarios. Nokia’s flexible MORAN solution can also be utilized by mobile operators and enterprises for private networks, as well as public networks or industrial campuses.

MORAN should help Softbank and KDDI roll out 5G faster and cheaper. Costs will decrease and subscriber coverage will be quicker. They are also working together on a shared rural coverage project announced 18 months ago, that will see them share base station assets to build out 5G more quickly in rural areas.

Tomohiro Sekiwa, Senior Vice President and CNO, SoftBank, said: “In order to deliver the best 5G experience to customers nationwide as quickly as possible, SoftBank is working with KDDI to develop a shared 5G network. In this effort, a Multi-Operator Radio Access Network is a key technology that will bring various efficiencies and we look forward to the high performance of Nokia’s products in this regard.”

Tatsuo Sato, Vice President and Managing Officer, Technology Planning, KDDI, said: “We are pleased to work closely with both Nokia and SoftBank to accelerate 5G network deployment across Japan. With this Multi-Operator Radio Access Network, we anticipate delivering the superior unique experiences of 5G to customers faster.”

Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “Nokia has been at the forefront of network sharing around the world since the deployment of the world’s first commercial shared network. We have a long-standing partnership with both SoftBank and KDDI and are excited to work collaboratively with them on this project. Our latest AirScale solutions will be utilized, including the new baseband plug-in cards to add capacity where it is needed and deliver best-in-class 5G connectivity to their customers.”

It will be interesting to see the impact that this network gear sharing deal has on SoftBank and KDDI’s respective 5G businesses in the coming months and years.


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Network Sharing


Network Infrastructure Sharing and the MORAN Concept:


4 thoughts on “Nokia deploys shared 5G RAN (MORAN) with SoftBank and KDDI in Japan

  1. Good Article on Network Sharing:
    Two approaches have been proposed for RAN infrastructure Sharing: Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN) and Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN)

    Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN) proposed an architecture where the eNBs/gNBs are shared, while the core network is proprietary to each network provider. The MORAN standard also proposed the sharing of the Radio Access Network (RAN), using dedicated radio frequencies assigned to each service provider. In this approach, they can independently control cell level e.g each operator can decide his own optimization parameters, Tx Power to control the cell range and interference.

    3GPP TS 32.130 Network sharing; Concepts and requirements
    3 GPP TS 23.251 Network sharing; Architecture and functional description

    1. Thanks for your comment Dr Bueller.

      In the absence of any standards or 3GPP implementation specs, each network operator has to generate a proprietary spec for 5G MORAN. For example, how to assign a 5G end point to a base station/small cell; how to re-assign the 5G end point to a different BS/small cell if the one requested can’t handle any more traffic; collect traffic and billing statistics for each operator sharing a given BS/small cell, segregate backhaul traffic for each operator, etc.

      So just like 5G SA core network (where there are no ITU standards or 3GPP implementation specs), the implementation of 5G MORAN will likely be different for each set of 5G network operators that are sharing 5G network infrastructure.

      Astonishingly, no one seems to care about that, despite having to create proprietary 5G MORAN software and protocols for each set of network operators that are sharing 5G network infrastructure.

  2. Ericsson and APT establish first 5G multi-operator core network in Taiwan
    The 5G MOCN is a first for Taiwan, following a 2020 agreement between Asia-Pacific Telecom (APT) and Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET) to deliver 5G services in the 3.5 GHz band, and was launched within six months. As one flavor of network sharing, MOCN is where operators maintain separate core networks, but share radio access elements like radios, base stations, backhaul networks and controllers, as well as spectrum.
    Multi-operator RAN (MORAN) is a similar active network sharing setup in terms of RAN but carriers each use their own dedicated spectrum. KDDI and SoftBank are using networking sharing gear from Ericsson to deploy MORAN for the first time in Japan.

    According to the GSMA, MORAN and MOCN can happen on a per-site basis and still allows for strategic differentiation between operators. Compared to passive infrastructure sharing (meaning non-electronic infrastructure like sites, where carriers still have their own network equipment), GSMA says the operational complexity is higher for MORAN/MOCN but carriers have greater opportunity to save on opex, as well as reduce their network footprint.

    In Taiwan, APT and FET’s partnership includes 700 MHz shared RAN, which will be used for both 4G and 5G. Ericsson was tapped to upgrade several sites with new 5G RAN gear and existing basebands already installed became 5G capable, in part to be on par with FET’s network technology and performance.

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