MTN and Rakuten MoU: Open RAN trials using RCP in South Africa, Nigeria and Liberia

Africa’s largest mobile network operator MTN Group and Rakuten Symphony signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to run live 4G and 5G OpenRAN Proof of Concept (PoC) trials in South Africa, Nigeria and Liberia using the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP). The trials will start in 2022 and combine RCP OpenRAN equipment with advanced automation and autonomous network capabilities. The products are currently deployed by Rakuten Mobile in Japan and include cloud orchestration, zero-touch provisioning and automation of radio site commissioning and network integration.

The trials will enable the launch of new services more quickly, cost-effectively and seamlessly, MTN said. The mobile operator and Rakuten Symphony will be collaborating with systems integrators Accenture and Tech Mahindra to conduct the trials in the three countries.

“We are pleased to announce our partnership with Rakuten Symphony to deploy live 4G and 5G Open RAN trials across South Africa, Nigeria and Liberia. In line with our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life, we are committed to actively driving the rapid expansion of affordable 4G and 5G coverage across markets in Africa,” said Mazen Mroue, MTN Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer. “We have announced our support towards the deployment of Open RAN technology in 2021 to modernize our radio access network footprint. Through this partnership we hope to target innovation and cost efficiencies that will enable us to continue delivering an exceptional customer experience.”

The solutions, currently deployed by Rakuten Mobile in Japan, include cloud orchestration, Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP) and automation of radio site commissioning and network integration.

Image – left to right: Amith Maharaj, MTN Group Executive, Network Planning and Design; Tareq Amin, CEO Rakuten Symphony; Rabih Dabboussi, Chief Revenue Officer, Rakuten Symphony.

“We’re excited to take this next step in our partnership with MTN,” said Rabih Dabboussi, Chief Revenue Officer of Rakuten Symphony. “This PoC will demonstrate how one of the world’s top-tier brownfield mobile operators can utilize Rakuten Symphony’s network automation and orchestration solutions for cost-effective network transformation and timely deployment of next-generation network services to their customers across Africa.”

Rakuten Mobile made a full-scale launch of commercial services on the world’s first fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network in 2020 in Japan, and launched Rakuten Symphony in 2021 to bring its innovations to other operators. Rakuten Symphony brings together Rakuten’s telco products, services and systems under a single banner to offer 4G and 5G infrastructure and platforms to customers worldwide.

MTN has already been testing open RAN equipment in several markets and is an active member of the Telecom Infra Project. The network operator announced several other Open RAN suppliers last year which were: Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Tech Mahindra and Voyage.

About the MTN Group:

Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a leading emerging market operator with a clear vision to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our customers. We are inspired by our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. The MTN Group is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa under the share code ‘MTN’. Our strategy is Ambition 2025: Leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress.

About Rakuten Symphony:

Rakuten Symphony is reimagining telecom, changing supply chain norms and disrupting outmoded thinking that threatens the industry’s pursuit of rapid innovation and growth. Based on proven modern infrastructure practices, its open interface platforms make it possible to launch and operate advanced mobile services in a fraction of the time and cost of conventional approaches, with no compromise to network quality or security. Rakuten Symphony has headquarters in Japan and local presence in the United States, Singapore, India, Europe and the Middle East Africa region.



Rakuten Symphony Inc. to provide 4G and 5G infrastructure and platform solutions to the global market


Bloomberg: 5G in the U.S. Has Been a $100 Billion Box Office Bomb


From the very start of 5G deployments three years ago, there have been challenges with the technology, like when AT&T confusingly branded 4G as “5G E.” Conspiracy theorists have tagged 5G as a source of harmful radiation and a spreader of the coronavirus.

More recently, airlines and the FAA have complained that C-Band  frequencies could interfere with radar and jeopardize air safety. To date, the biggest knock against 5G is that it’s been a nonevent. And, by the time it’s in full force, big tech companies including Amazon, Microsoft, and Google may have beaten the wireless carriers to the kinds of data-hungry applications that superfast 5G networks have been expected to spawn.  At FCC auctions, U.S. carriers spent $118B on 5G spectrum- about twice as much as they spent on 4G.

Source: FCC

The higher speeds and greater capacity of 5G are needed to meet growing demand for services such as high-definition video streaming. However, the big improvement with 5G technology was supposed to be Ultra High Reliability and Ultra Low Latency (URLLC), which was to spawn a wide variety of new mission critical and real time control applications.  That hasn’t happened because the ITU-R M.2150 RAN standard (based on 3GPP release 15 and 16) doesn’t meet the URLLC performance requirements in ITU M.2410 while the 3GPP Release 16 URLLC in the RAN spec (which was to meet those requirements) has not been completed or performance tested.

Also, all the new 5G features, such as network slicing, can only be realized with a 5G SA core network, but very few have actually been deployed.  Adjunct capabilities, like virtualization, automation, and multi-access edge computing also require a “cloud native” 5G SA core network.  Finally, the highly touted 5G mmWave services (like Verizon’s Ultra-Wideband) consume a tremendous amount of power, require line of sight communications, and have limited range/coverage.

Lacking a compelling reason to persuade customers to upgrade, carriers have been offering $1,000 5G phones for free to help jump-start the conversion process. Such promotions are needed because 5G isn’t even among the top four reasons people switch carriers, according to surveys by Roger Entner of Recon Analytics Inc. Those reasons typically include price or overall network reliability.

Ironically, one area where 5G has had early success is in providing wireless home broadband service (aka Fixed Wireless Access or FAA).   That’s because 5G was designed for mobile- not fixed- communications and FAA was not even a targeted use case by either ITU-R or 3GPP.  Nonetheless, as faster 5G mid-band frequencies are built out, customers are finding a wireless alternative to landline providers. This threat to cablecos is likely to spark price battles as the cable operators respond by offering cheaper mobile phone service of their own.

This was not the way 5G was envisioned or promoted.  Carriers were rolling out 5G to deliver an “oh, wow” experience that customers would willingly pay extra for. Instead the technology has become a standard feature in an arena where mobile phone companies and cable operators are battling it out with similar packages. As that reality started to take hold, the carriers pointed to bigger, more immediate opportunities such as selling 5G to large companies and governments. “It became apparent a while ago that the most compelling use cases for 5G would revolve around businesses rather than consumers,” GlobalData’s Parker said.

To help make that happen, the major carriers formed partnerships with the so-called webscalers, the big cloud service providers including Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, Google, and Meta Platforms that handle data storage, online ordering, and video streaming for big companies. Each cloud giant sees 5G as a valuable entry into new classes of services, such as secure private networks to replace Wi-Fi, factory automation, and edge computing, which brings network hardware closer to end users to increase speeds.

To help make that happen, the major carriers formed partnerships with the so-called webscalers, the big cloud service providers including Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, Google, and Meta Platforms that handle data storage, online ordering, and video streaming for big companies. Each cloud giant sees 5G as a valuable entry into new classes of services, such as secure private networks to replace Wi-Fi, factory automation, and edge computing, which brings network hardware closer to end users to increase speeds.

The wireless carriers are staking their futures on these workplace roles. But because no 5G hyperconnected, cloud-powered commercial ecosystem has been built before, tech giants and telecommunications companies are collaborating to tackle the challenge.

While new partnerships are still being announced and big 5G projects are moving through the planning stages, executives at the wireless companies say they’re confident they can play a role in the information technology infrastructure of the future. “I’m proud to be the only carrier in the world that has partnership agreements with all three of the big webscalers,” says Verizon Communications Inc.’s business services chief Tami Erwin. “We’re creating the platform for the metaverse to really accelerate.”

As 4G showed, the carriers could create a higher-functioning network, but it was other companies such as Uber, Netflix, and Facebook that cashed in on the connectivity. 5G is set to expand the overall pie again, but the size of the carriers’ slice isn’t certain—bad news because they spent $118.4 billion on 5G airwave auctions, almost double the $61.8 billion they paid for 4G spectrum.

T-Mobile US Inc., which has taken the lead in U.S. 5G deployment, plans to focus on its core network strength as the tech giants sort things out, says Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s president of technology. “Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google—all of these massive companies are lining up huge investments in this space, and they need mobile networks in a way that they never did before,” he says. “They will need network capabilities that they simply don’t have any desire to build.”

That’s led a bunch of would-be competitors to work arm-in-arm to create a collective business model. “We have a great partnership with Microsoft,” says AT&T’s Sambar. “We’re a customer of Amazon, and they’re a customer of ours. We’re all friends today, we keep a close eye on each other. You have to cooperate to make this happen.”

The carriers provide businesses with a roster of services including voice, data, network management, and security, and they’ll want to keep control of those relationships as services emerge in 5G, says longtime Wall Street industry analyst Peter Supino. But as the cloud providers gain a bigger role in a business’s network infrastructure, running everything from robotics on the production floor to in-office wireless data systems, the carriers’ role may shift to more of a wholesale supplier of network capacity and mobile cellular service to the cloud companies, according to Supino.

“Over time, I’m confident that the cloud operators will provide too much convenience to be ignored,” he says. “The benefits of 5G will be significant, and they will mostly accrue to people who aren’t the telco carriers.”


Stratospheric Platforms demos HAPS based 5G; will it succeed where Google & Facebook failed?

UK-based Stratospheric Platforms (SPL) claims it’s demonstrated the world’s first successful High Altitude Platform Satellite (HAPS) based 5G base station.   The 5G coverage from the stratosphere  demonstration took place in Saudi Arabia.

–> That’s quite a claim since there are no ITU-R standards or 3GPP implementation specs for HAPS or satellite 5G.  Current 5G standards and 3GPP specs are for terrestrial wireless coverage.

A SPL stratospheric mast – which for the purposes of the demonstration had been installed on a civilian aircraft – delivered high-speed coverage to a 5G mobile device from an altitude of 14 kilometres to a geographical area of 450 square kilometres.

SPL says their The High Altitude Platform (HAP) will be certified from the outset for safe operations in civil airspace. Some attributes are the following:

  • The HAP will have endurance of over a week on station due its lightweight structure and huge power source.
  • Designed to be strong enough to fly through the turbulent lower altitudes to reach the more benign environment of the stratosphere, where it will hold-station.
  • A wingspan of 60 metres and a large, reliable power source enables a 140kg communications payload.
  • Design life of over 10 years with minimal maintenance, repair and overhaul costs
  • Extensive use of automation in manufacturing processes will result in a low cost platform.

Source: Stratospheric Platforms

The joint team established three-way video calls between the land-based test site, a mobile device operated from a boat and a control site located 950 km away. Further land and heliborne tests demonstrated a user could stream 4K video to a mobile phone with an average latency of 1 millisecond above network speed. Signal strength trials, using a 5G enabled device moving at 100 km/h, proved full interoperability with ground-based masts and a consistent ‘five bars’ in known white spots.

Richard Deakin, CEO Stratospheric Platforms said, “Stratospheric Platforms has achieved a world-first. This is a momentous event for the global telecoms industry proving that a 5G telecoms mast flying near the top of the earth’s atmosphere can deliver stable broadband 5G internet to serve mobile users with ubiquitous, high-speed internet, over vast areas.”

Deakin added, “The trial has proved that 5G can be reliably beamed down from an airborne antenna and is indistinguishable from ground-based mobile networks. Our hydrogen-powered ‘Stratomast’ High Altitude Platform currently under development, will be able to fly for a week without refuelling and cover an area of 15,000 km2 using one antenna.”

The successful demonstration that a High Altitude Platform can deliver 5G Internet from the stratosphere means that mobile users can look forward to the capability of 5G mobile internet, even in the remotest areas of the world.

CITC Governor, H.E. Dr Mohammed Altamimi commented “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is at the cutting edge of technological innovation and our partnership with Stratospheric Platforms’ with the support of the Red Sea Project and General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has demonstrated how we can deliver ‘always on’, ultra-fast broadband to areas without ground based 5G masts.”


Background and Analysis:

SPL was founded in Cambridge in 2014. In 2016, Deutsche Telekom became its biggest single shareholder and launch customer. It came out of hiding in 2020 with a demonstration in Germany of an aerial LTE base station.

Should SPL turn its HAPS vision into a sustainable, commercial reality, it will have succeeded where some much bigger names have failed. Google had a grand vision to offer long range WiFi connectivity from a fleet of balloons.  Project Loon  launched its first – and what turned out to be only – commercial service in Kenya in 2018.   After nine years, Google gave up on Project Loon in 2021.  In 2015 Google also dabbled with a drone-based HAPS service called Project Titan, but that came to an end in 2016.

Similarly Facebook attempted to roll out drone-based connectivity under the Aquila brand in 2016, but threw in the towel two years later.  Facebook then posted what they believe will be “the next chapter in high altitude connectivity.”

These inauspicious examples don’t seem to have deterred SPL from pursuing HAPS connectivity, and it isn’t the only one trying.  This past January, Japan’s NTT announced it is working with its mobile arm DoCoMo, aircraft maker Airbus, and Japanese satcoms provider Sky Perfect JSAT to look into the feasibility of HAPS-based connectivity.

So the momentum is building for HAPS based wireless connectivity but it won’t go mass market till standards emerge.


New partnership targets future global wireless-connectivity services combining satellites and HAPS

Facebook & AT&T to Test Drones for Wireless Communications Capabilities

After 9 years Alphabet pulls the plug on Loon; Another Google X “moonshot” bites the dust!

High altitude connectivity: The next chapter


MoffettNathanson: Robust broadband and FWA growth, but are we witnessing a fiber bubble?

According to a new comprehensive, market research report from MoffettNathanson (written by our colleague Craig Moffett), Q4 2021 broadband growth, at +3.3%, “remains relatively robust,” and above pre-pandemic levels of about +2.8%.

Meanwhile, the U.S. fixed wireless access (FWA market) captured ~ 38% share of broadband industry net adds in the fourth quarter of 2021.  Approximately half of Verizon’s FWA customers are coming from commercial accounts, T-Mobile has indicated that about half its FWA customers are coming from former cable Internet subscribers.  FWA’s strong Q4 showing left cable’s flow share at just 66%, about the same as cable’s share of installed US broadband households. “In other words, Cable likely neither gained nor lost share during the quarter, and instead merely treaded water,” Moffett noted.  FWA “has gone from low-level background noise to suddenly a major force, with Verizon and T-Mobile alone capturing more than 300K FWA subscribers in the fourth quarter,” Craig noted.  However, he isn’t sure that wireless network operators will allocate enough total bandwidth capacity for FWA to fully scale.

In 2020, a year that witnessed a surge in broadband subs as millions worked and schooled from home, the growth rate spiked to 5%. Here’s a snapshot of the broadband subscriber metrics per sector for Q4 2021:

Table 1:

Sector Q4 2021 Gain/Loss Q4 2020 Gain/Loss Year-on-Year Growth % Total
Cable +464,000 +899,000 +3.8% 79.43 million
Telco -26,000 +21,000 -0.4% 33.51 million
FWA* +302,000 +81,000 +463.9% 869,000
Satellite -35,000 -35,000 -6.6% 1.66 million
Total Wireline +437,000 +920,000 +2.8% 112.95 million
Total Broadband +704,000 +966,000 +3.3% 115.48 million
* Verizon and T-Mobile only
(Source: MoffettNathanson)

U.S. broadband ended 2021 with a penetration of 84%  among all occupied households. According to US Census Bureau data, new household formation, a vital growth driver for broadband, added just 104,000 to the occupied housing stock in Q4 2021, versus +427,000 in the year-ago period. Moffett said the “inescapable conclusion” is that growth rates will continue to slow, and that over time virtually all growth will have to stem from new household formation.

Factoring in competition and other elements impacting the broadband market, MoffettNathanson also adjusted its subscriber forecasts for several cable operators and telcos out to 2026. Here’s how those adjustments, which do not include any potential incremental growth from participation in government subsidy programs, look like for 2022:

  • Comcast: Adding 948,000 subs, versus prior forecast of +1.25 million
  • Charter: Adding 958,000 subs, versus prior forecast of +1.22 million
  • Cable One: Adding 39,000, versus prior forecast of +48,000
  • Verizon: Adding 241,000, versus prior forecast of +302,000
  • AT&T: Adding 136,000, versus prior forecast of +60,000

Are we witnessing a fiber bubble?

“The market’s embrace of long-dated fiber projects rests on four critical assumptions. First, that the cost-per-home to deploy fiber will remain low. Second, that fiber’s eventual penetration rates will be high. Third, that these penetration gains can be achieved even at relatively high ARPUs. And fourth, that the capital to fund these projects remains cheap and plentiful.

None of these assumptions are clear cut. For example, there is an obvious risk that all the jostling for fiber deployment labor and equipment will push labor and construction costs higher. More pointedly, we think there is a sorely underappreciated risk that the pool of attractive deployment geographies – sufficiently dense communities, preferably with aerial infrastructure – will be exhausted long before promised buildouts have been completed.

Revenue assumptions, too, demand scrutiny. Cable operators are increasingly relying on bundled discounts of broadband-plus-wireless to protect their market share. What if the strategy works, even a little bit? And curiously, the market’s infatuation with fiber overbuilds comes at a time when cable investors are growing increasingly cautious about the impact of fixed wireless. Won’t fixed wireless dent the prospects of new overbuilds just as much (or more) as those of the incumbents.”

Moffet estimates that about 30% of the U.S. population has been overbuilt by fiber over the past 20 years, and that the number is poised to rise as high as 60% over the next five years. But the big question is whether there’s enough labor and equipment to support this magnitude of expansion.  “Our skepticism about the prospects for all of the fiber plans currently on the drawing board is not born of doubt that there is enough labor to build it all so much as it is that the cost of building will be driven higher by excess demand,” Moffett explained. “There are already widespread reports of labor shortages and attendant higher labor costs,” he added.

“The outlook for broadband growth for all the companies in our coverage, particularly the cable operators, is more uncertain than at any time in memory. IMarket share trends are also more uncertain that they have been in the past. Cable continues to take share from the telcos, but fixed wireless, as a new entrant, is now taking share from all players. Share shifts between the TelCos and cable operators are suppressed by low move rates, likely due in part to supply chain disruptions in the housing market. This is likely dampening cable growth rates. In at least some markets, returns will likely be well below the cost of capital,” Moffett forecasts.


U.S. Broadband: Are We Witnessing a Fiber Bubble?  MoffetNathanson research note (clients and accredited journalists)

Huawei: XR industry to realize exponential growth with 5G; ‘Spatial Internet’ will be the next big thing

The world of Extended Reality or XR, which covers Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality, offers infinite potential, said Dr. Philip Song, Chief Marketing Officer, Huawei Carrier, during his keynote speech  “5G + XR: Bringing Imagination into Reality,” at the 2022 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

According to a survey, the XR industry will contribute US$1.5 trillion to the global GDP by 2030. In 2021, more than 10 million units of Quest 2 were shipped. These 10 million users will be the critical mass for the XR ecosystem to take off.  Dr. Song added that following the mobile internet, ‘Spatial Internet’ [1.] will be the next big thing.

Note 1.  While there’s no clear definition, the Spatial Web or Spatial Internet refers to a computing atmosphere that exists in a 3D space. It is a pairing of real and virtual realities, enabled via billions of connected devices, and accessed through the interface of Virtual and Augmented Reality.


Song introduced how Huawei held VR-enabled annual meetings and uses AR to assist with 5G base station delivery. Huawei and third-party data shows that the XR market will generate US$1.5 trillion in GDP by 2030, which is roughly equivalent to the current 5G market.

Comparing the XR industry’s progress to how the smartphone industry developed, Song said many vendors are now offering XR devices for under US$300, making the technology more affordable while still offering next-gen user experiences. XR development tools are being increasingly adopted. The new OPEN XR standard is now supported by almost every major hardware, platform, and engine company, making multi-platform deployment possible without multiple rounds of development.

What is more noteworthy is that a number of global XR pioneer carriers have made commercial breakthroughs in recent years. Carriers in countries like South KoreaThailand, and China have led the deployment of VR/AR services and gained significant returns through three steps: selecting industries, setting business models, and developing capabilities. A carrier said, “If XR was launched three months later, it might take three years to catch up.”

XR Industry to Grow Rapidly:

The world is on the cusp of witnessing the fast-paced growth of the XR industry, he said.  VR headset shipments are accelerating. In 2021, more than 10 million units of Oculus Quest 2, a VR headset, were shipped. Ten million users will be the critical mass for the XR ecosystem to take off. The growth of VR devices will mirror that of smartphones and mobile devices. From 1983 to 1994, it took 11 years to sell the first 10 million cellphones. However, the cellphone shipment touched 20 million in 1995, and 100 million were sold over the next three years. According to market forecast, VR headset shipment will reach 100 million units by 2025.

Also, the price of VR devices continues to drop, making them affordable for more people. Lastly, continuous innovation in XR technologies has made it possible to deliver a generational leap in user experience.

Huawei’s Philip Song delivering a keynote speech at 2022 MWC.  Source: Huawei
Content is championing XR growth:
Large scale development of games and gaming platforms is also acting as a catalyst to boost the XR industry. “Besides device availability, the most important thing is content. Large sales of hardware and profitable software are the pre-condition for a healthy industry,” shared Dr Song. A case in point is SteamVR, a famous VR gaming platform that took 41 months to connect one million devices per month. But just 11 months later, the number increased to three million. Similarly, the game Beat Saber has seen four million copies sold. This one game generated more than 180 million dollars in revenue.
Moreover, XR developer tools are also more common with the continuous innovation of technologies. “In the past, it required more than 200 lines of code to create an AR special effect. But now, only 10 lines of code are needed with the Huawei AR engine. Developers do not need specialized AR development skills. AR model development is as simple as writing PPT,” he stated.
Some of the success stories of content operation include LG U+ providing AR/VR content to AIS, enabling AIS to quickly acquire content to develop XR users; China Mobile Migu building a VR content aggregation platform to bring in premium content; and Tiktok crowdsourcing content from users. These three cases map to a three-step content strategy: namely content introduction, content aggregation, and content crowdsourcing.
How can telecom operators grab a pie of the XR market?   
It will be necessary to identify the right industries and defining the right business models. XR markets should be reviewed first. When identifying a sector, factors such as application potential, regional industry concentration, technical feasibility, and commercial feasibility should be considered. Telecom players also need to define the right business model to convert feasibility into financial success.
In the consumer space, operators can start off by offering XR services as part of the 5G package to get users on board and gain confidence. They can then move on to premium content and scenario-based experience monetization.  Moreover, operators will have to continuously work towards improving XR experience and reducing productions costs to gain a competitive edge.
Dr. Song shared insights into the accelerated growth of the XR industry. He said that the traffic demand of popular XR content doubles every 18 to 24 months. Two years ago, 4K 30-frame full-view XR content was the mainstream, but 8K 60-frame FOV XR content is now becoming more popular. And in the next two to four years, 12K or even 24K XR content with a higher frame rate will be the more common. And this premium content will consume network bandwidth and cloud resources at an exponential pace, he emphasized.
Cloud service capabilities should also double every 18-24 months, allowing premium XR content production costs to fall exponentially. “Huawei Cloud XR Service is one prime example of the same. Through continuous innovation, Huawei is building the strongest foundation for XR development,” he said.

Huawei launched its next-generation, innovative AR-HUD, expanding XR applications. In terms of XR data transmission, Huawei presented innovative solutions such as 5G Massive MIMO and FTTR. The company has publicly committed to supporting a “Gigaverse” that provides ubiquitous gigabit access to support XR experiences anytime, anywhere. Huawei also launched its “Cloud-network Express” solution to help XR industry partners quickly access multiple clouds and use cloud-based development and rendering capabilities.

As he closed out his presentation, Song called on industry partners to work together in line with the “new Moore’s Law” and seize this great development opportunity for the XR industry.   “I do believe that with industry-wide collaboration, 5G+XR will have a bright future. The best way to predict the future is to create it. The time to act is now,” concluded Dr. Song.


Telefónica Germany and NEC partner to deliver 1st Open RAN with small cells in Germany

Telefónica Germany and NEC Corporation announced their successful collaboration in launching the first Open and virtual RAN architecture-based small cells in Germany. The service has initially launched in the city center of Munich to enhance the customer experience by providing increased capacity to the existing mobile network in this dense, urban area.  NEC serves as the prime system integrator in the four countries of Telefónica S.A. and NEC’s program to explore ways to apply Open RAN in various geographies (urban, sub-urban, rural) and use cases.  Telefónica Germany had previously said it planned to deploy pure 5G Open RAN mini-radio cells in Munich later this year.

In this German deployment, the flexibility of Open RAN is leveraged through the use of small cells to improve capacity in dense, urban areas. One of the key advantages of Open RAN over a traditional architecture is that it allows wider choice of vendor options. NEC integrated a multi-vendor architecture that includes Airspan Networks* unique Airspeed plug-and-play solution and Rakuten Symphony’s Open vRAN software for O2 / Telefónica Germany’s small cells to complement the existing multi-vendor based macro cells in its network.

The adoption of Open RAN small cells combined with macro cells will pave the way for 5G network densification. This will be especially beneficial in Germany, where multiple industries and enterprises are seeking ways to utilize cellular service functionalities in a particular area or in shared physical spaces.

Source:  Telecom Infra Project


O2 / Telefónica Germany and NEC will continue their collaboration leveraging innovative Open RAN technologies, as well as automation, to validate and deploy advanced networks that efficiently deliver superior customer experiences in the 5G era, with collaboration from key partners.

“We are proud to have launched Germany’s first small cells built on innovative Open RAN technologies that help to complete the delivery of granular, high-quality connectivity in dense urban areas,” said Matthias Sauder, Director Mobile Access & Transport at O2 / Telefónica Germany. “NEC became our partner in this innovative project, with its underlying technological background and experiences of Open RAN technologies.”

“The potential of Open RAN technologies in the 5G era is infinite,” said Shigeru Okuya, Senior Vice President, NEC Corporation. “NEC is honored to be the strategic partner to O2 / Telefónica Germany, jointly leading the industry with practical and effective use cases that prove the value of Open RAN.”


Germany seems to be a focal point for OpenRAN deployments.   For example, greenfield operator 1 & 1 is deploying a fully-virtualized, Open RAN mobile network built by Rakuten Symphony. That partnership began in the fourth quarter of 2021.

At Mobile World Congress this week, Vodafone announced that it plans to use OpenRAN in 30 percent of its masts in Europe – which includes Germany, of course – by 2030. Last November it emerged that it is working with Nokia and network software provider Mavenir to transform Plauen in Germany into a so-called ‘OpenRAN city’ that will be a live testbed for new OpenRAN-based products.

Deutsche Telekom is also a big fan of OpenRAN. Last June it claimed Europe’s first live OpenRAN deployment in Neubrandenburg, which has been dubbed ‘O-RAN Town’. It has partnered with a broad range of suppliers, including NEC, Fujitsu, Dell, Intel, Mavenir and SuperMicro.

Last December, semiconductor/SoC start-up Picocom made headlines in the Open RAN community by releasing the “industrt’s first” 5G NR small cell SoC for Open RAN.  This new product, dubbed the PC802, is described as PHY SoC for 5G NR and LTE small cell decentralized and integrated RAN architectures, including support for leading Open RAN specifications.  The PC802 allows for interfacing to radio units using either the O-RAN Open Fronthaul eCPRI interface or a JESD204B high-speed serial interface.  Optimized explicitly for decentralized small cells, the PC082 employs a FAPI protocol to allow communication and physical layer services to the MAC.


OpenRAN has been a recurring topic at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with MavenirQualcomm, and Rakuten Symphony, etc. all making product pitches.  However, it remains to be seen if Open RAN will actually be able to deliver on its promise of mix and match network modules and  lower the cost of network deployment with the performance, security and reliability that network operators must provide to their customers.



Telefónica Germany rolls out OpenRAN small cells

Mavenir at MWC 2022: Nokia and Ericsson are not serious OpenRAN vendors

Picocom PC802 SoC: 1st 5G NR/LTE small cell SoC designed for Open RAN

South Korean telcos to double 5G network bandwidth with massive MIMO; Private 5G

South Korea is on course to become the first country in the world where its mobile carriers scale up its 5G network capacity to more than 100 MHz-bandwidth for a single network operator.

At the Mobile World Congress 2022 exhibitions, three network equipment suppliers — Huawei Technologies, Ericsson-LG and Nokia — unveiled the most recent updates of their 5G equipment. Representatives say these could help South Korean telcos improve the quality of 5G delivery by doubling the bandwidth of their allocated network with a single piece of equipment.

The new massive MIMO antenna, allows a telecom carrier to use up to 200 MHz of a 400 MHz spectrum.  It also enables bandwidths to be used on separate parts of the 400MHz range, so a carrier could use two 100 MHz bandwidths 200 MHz apart, or even three or more smaller bandwidths.  Without the massive MIMO, Korean telcos would have to buy additional equipment to use more than one bandwidth slot or a bandwidth exceeding 100 MHz.

“Korea will become the first country to have its telcos occupy more than 100 MHz in terms of bandwidth (for a mid-range 5G network),” James Han, head of 5G sales Korea at Finland-based Nokia, told reporters at its MWC 2022 exhibition.  “The world will be watching, and we are seeing the new market coming,”  Han added.

Some of these products are not only showcased but are also being deployed in Seoul.  Han said the investment has been underway to deploy its cutting-edge massive MIMO antenna in downtown Seoul, starting this year, as the deployment should be done prior to the forthcoming 5G spectrum auction by the government and the licensing procedures.

Caption: Massive MIMO technology can be mutually beneficial and complementary with ultra-dense networking technology and high-frequency band technology.

Source: Research Gate


Seoul-based joint venture Ericsson-LG is also testing its newest equipment with Korean telecom carriers.  According to Lee Young-jo, vice president at Ericsson-LG, the deployment of a new antenna is expected to kick off in the second quarter.  “A telco would have been forced to buy two outdated pieces of equipment to (use) two separate slots, and this would have been a cost burden on the telco,” Lee told reporters.

Nokia and Ericsson-LG have both supplied their products to network infrastructure of Korean carriers KT and SK Telecom.  Another partner of the two, Samsung Electronics’ network division, did not unveil new equipment at MWC 2022 as it did not host a booth for its network solutions.

On the other hand, Huawei Technologies, which supplies its equipment to LG Uplus, also showcased at MWC 2022 its massive MIMO solution that supports the 400 MHz bandwidth scope and 200 MHz spectrum availability. The solution, however, has yet to be deployed for LG Uplus.

Meanwhile, the new 5G technology indicated that a successful deployment could settle a heated debate between Korean telecom firms over spectrum allocations. If the deployment is complete, all three companies — SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus — are likely to be given the same opportunity to claim rights for the new 100 MHz spectrum.

Currently, Korean carriers were allocated the 5G spectrum for mid-band range at between 3.42 GHz and 3.7 GHz bandwidth.

The government in June 2018 allocated an 80 MHz spectrum to LG Uplus, while its rivals KT and SK Telecom both won auctions for 100 MHz spectrums.

The auction effectively gave birth to the world‘s first commercial 5G smartphones in April 2019. It also launched a 5G-powered commercial smart factory in July 2020.

For the last three years, South Korean telcos have been at odds over how the auction of additional bandwidth slots should be carried out.  So far, Korea’s 280 MHz bandwidth combined were allocated to telcos, while 320 MHz is to be auctioned before 2023, but details regarding the auction have yet to be determined.

The targeted 5G spectrum includes a 20 MHz slot adjacent to LG Uplus‘ allocated spectrum that was left out at the 2018 auction due to interference with neighboring frequencies.

Addressing the problem, the government sought to put the slot back up for auction, only to face opposition from SK Telecom and KT, arguing they were effectively deprived of opportunities to use the spectrum without additional infrastructure investment, because of technological limitations.

Source:  Korea Herald


Separately, LG CNS, the information technology wing of South Korea’s LG Group, has applied for government permission to become the second domestic operator of a private 5G network.  It will be customized for services in specific regions that affords numerous advantages for modern enterprises as it can deliver ultra-low latency and incredibly high bandwidth connections supporting artificial intelligence-driven applications.

LG CNS said on March 3 that it would accelerate the digital transformation of manufacturing customers by combining 5G with smart factories. The company has released Factova, an integrated smart factory platform based on artificial intelligence, big data, and the internet of things (IoT).

Source:  LG CNS

South Korea has commercialized a 5G mobile telecom service using the frequency band of 3.5 GHz. For private 5G networks, the government will provide the 28 GHz band that makes data transmission speed faster especially in areas where traffic is concentrated.

Without borrowing 5G networks built by mobile carriers for businesses in factories or buildings, companies that want to provide 5G-based convergence services can build private 5G networks in specific regions. The private 5G network affords numerous advantages for modern enterprises as it can deliver ultra-low latency and incredibly high bandwidth connections supporting artificial intelligence-driven applications.

Unlike mobile telecommunication companies that developed nationwide business-to-consumer (B2C) communication businesses based on frequency monopoly rights, the ministry said that private 5G network operators can use regional monopoly rights to conduct business-to-business (B2B) communication services in limited areas.

In December 2021, Naver Cloud, a cloud computing service wing of South Korea’s top web portal operator and IT company, has become the country’s first operator of a private 5G network. Naver Cloud will establish a smart office using a private 5G network at a new robot-friendly building under construction in Bundang in the southern satellite city of Seoul.

For services to other companies, Naver Cloud will provide cloud data centers and private 5G networks, while Naver Labs will offer ultra-large AI and 5G brainless robots. Naver will use the robot-friendly building as a global reference space where 5G networks, cloud, robots, autonomous driving, digital twin, and AI are connected and fused into one.


Rootmetrics: U.S. 5G carriers in close race; South Korea 5G is worldwide #1



Comcast 2021 Network Report: Data Traffic Increased Over Historic 2020 Levels; 10G Coming

After hitting historic peaks in 2020, traffic on the Comcast network grew again in 2021, according to the Comcast 2021 Network Report, released today. Key takeaways:

  • In 2021 alone, Comcast invested more than $4.2 billion to strengthen, expand and evolve the network – more than any previous year.
  • Traffic patterns remained highly asymmetrical, as peak downstream traffic grew 2x faster than upstream traffic, more closely mirroring pre-pandemic trends.
  • In 2021, downstream traffic rose 11% over 2020 levels, while peak upstream traffic rose just 5%. By comparison, 2020 network traffic levels spiked considerably – peak downstream traffic rose 38% while upstream traffic surged 56%
  • Similar to last year, entertainment activities dominated peak network traffic, with video streaming accounting for 71 percent of downstream traffic.

“Over the past two years, our network has been a powerful and reliable pillar for our customers as they’ve navigated dramatic changes in how we live, learn, play and work,” said Charlie Herrin, President of Technology, Product, Experience at Comcast Cable. “The outstanding performance of the network throughout this time is a testament to our commitment to strategic investment, unceasing innovation, and the incredible talent and dedication of our technology teams across the country.”

Regarding traffic content, video streaming, at 71%, dominated peak network traffic on Comcast’s network in 2021, compared to 11% for gaming apps, 9% for web browsing and 2% for software updates.

2021 Network Traffic:

Comcast increased speeds for its most popular Xfinity speed tiers in 2021, including increasing gig speeds to 1.2 gigabits-per-second In 2021 alone, Comcast invested more than $4.2 billion to strengthen, expand and evolve the network – more than any previous year.


In addition to smart software and virtualization technologies that increase performance and reliability, Comcast took major steps in 2021 toward the next phase of network evolution. 10G technology will allow Comcast to deliver multi-gigabit upload and download speeds over the connections already in tens of millions of American homes. In 2021, Comcast completed successful tests of key technologies required to deliver 10G, including a world-first demonstration of a complete 10G connection from network to modem.

“Network investment is important, but the network architects and software engineers across Comcast are also innovating at the speed of software,” said Elad Nafshi, EVP & Chief Network Officer at Comcast Cable. “Our colleagues leading these innovations are creating the future for our customers.”

“We certainly haven’t had time to sit still during the past two years, but thanks to billions of investment, continuous innovation, and most importantly the incredible team we have working on the network at every level, we have stayed well ahead of demand, which is really borne out by our performance delivering above-advertised speeds to customers throughout the pandemic,” Nafshi said via email in response to questions from Light Reading.

Xfinity Gigabit Pro is a targeted, residential fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) service that was recently upgraded to deliver symmetrical speeds of 3 Gbit/s. The cable operator also offers up to 1.2Gbit/s downstream and 35Mbit/s upstream on its DOCSIS 3.1 network.

“We’re always building our network in anticipation of whatever our customers may need in the future, so while traffic today remains heavily asymmetrical – with downstream accounting for 14.5x as much volume as upstream in the last six months of 2021 – we continue to be really excited about the multi-gig symmetrical capacity we are developing for our HFC plant, because it offers a unique path to provide those experiences to customers at scale,” Nafshi explained.

Comcast and other cable operators are now starting to focus on DOCSIS 4.0, a new platform for hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks that can deliver up to 10Gbit/s downstream and 6Gbit/s upstream. Recent Comcast tests have generated symmetrical speeds of 4 Gbit/s. Comcast has not announced when it expects DOCSIS 4.0-based services to be ready for prime time.


Mavenir at MWC 2022: Nokia and Ericsson are not serious OpenRAN vendors

Andrew Wooden of talked with Mavenir’s SVP of business development John Baker and CMO Stefano Cantarelli to gauge how industry is feeling towards OpenRAN.  Here are a few quotes:

“Clearly the (OpenRAN) train has left the station, there’s a lot of buzz about OpenRAN – it’s back to the haves and have nots,” Baker told us. “I see a lot of interest from network operators and a lot of interest from the component suppliers. But on the other side of it, about [Nokia’s recent statement about OpenRAN] – they’re full of it. Because they’re a startup in OpenRAN themselves but are not doing anything. They’re trying to pass  on a message that the OpenRAN community is confused, that there are no real OpenRAN players out there, and they’re trying to position themselves as the real OpenRAN player. Digging underneath that, we’re having to call out the Nokia’s and Ericsson’s for confusing the story and trying to keep the confusion running around the marketplace, about the status of OpenRAN.”

Ericsson has been clear right up front that [they’re] not going to participate in OpenRAN. They name their products as Cloud RAN but you can’t mix and match, so they don’t they don’t meet the OpenRAN requirements. I stand very firm that unless you’ve got two suppliers interworked, then you haven’t got OpenRAN.”  Of course, this author agrees 100%!

Regarding Nokia, Baker said: “We’ve been asking for the last two years, every month almost, we’re ready to interwork, when are you ready? And they never get there. So our view is Nokia doesn’t have anything, they’re just trying to protect an old silicon strategy. And that’s their problem. They’ve had two failed attempts, in my opinion, of their silicon strategy – first time they got it completely wrong. Second time they got it too late for the industry because software is now replacing where they are with silicon. I think at the end of the day those two logos are going to disappear in the distance.”

Cantarelli added: “I think Ericsson and Nokia are not stupid. They know OpenRAN is the future, it’s just at the beginning they didn’t think about it, and now they’re a bit late. So they’re protecting their legacy. And they’re waiting for when they’re going to be ready, so it’s purely a delaying technique.”

Some observers  think OpenRAN is immediate, and of singular importance, but others don’t think it will be as disruptive as that, at least not right now.  This author is in the latter camp.  We’ve explained why many times why:  without implementation standards there is no interoperability!


Mavenir slams Nokia and Ericsson for confusing the OpenRAN story

OpenRAN in 30% of Vodafone European network by 2030; Europe way behind China and South Korea in 5G deployments

Ericsson expresses concerns about O-RAN Alliance and Open RAN performance vs. costs

Vodafone and Mavenir create indoor OpenRAN solution for business customers

Bank of America: OpenRAN primer with global 5G implications

Mavenir and Altiostar Collaborate to Deliver OpenRAN Radios for U.S. Market; Parallel Wireless CEO Opinion

Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) defacto standard for 5G core and OpenRAN?

Strand Consult: Open RAN hype vs reality leaves many questions unanswered


CableLabs to host NTIA’s 5G Challenge – includes 5G SA core network, testing and measurement

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that CableLabs will host the NTIA- Information Administration’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (NTIA-ITS) 5G Challenge, in support of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which seeks to advance open 5G networks with the goal of interoperability and plug-and-play operation from different vendor components.  NTIA-ITS will leverage CableLabs’ state-of-the-art lab deployment of fully virtualized 5G networks, including multiple cores, multiple radio access network and new network emulation equipment.

The competition requires a 5G SA core network, testing and measurement capabilities.  An important goal of the competition is to help spur a growing 5G supplier community with interoperable, multi-vendor solutions – and CableLabs says its facility has all the right makings to see participants compete in testing and validation on-site.

NTIA launched an inquiry in early 2021 seeking input on a 5G Challenge as it explored ways to speed up development and interoperability of the open 5G ecosystem to support DoD missions. It’s still working on design and execution of the competition, and previously received input from major vendors such as Ericsson and groups including the Open RAN Policy Coalition, which were among 51 responses submitted by a range of industry stakeholders.

“The Department of Defense recognizes that 5G technologies are foundational to strengthening our Nation’s warfighting capabilities as well as U.S. economic competitiveness. Open 5G systems would greatly bolster the Department’s ability to deliver on its missions, and we look forward to exploring new and innovative opportunities for their development,” said Michael Kratsios, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

The effort is going to leverage the CableLabs 17,000-square-foot lab, where it has deployed fully virtualized 5G networks that include multiple cores, radio access network and new network emulation equipment.  CableLabs has a 5G SA network prototype with engineering capabilities to integrate multiple vendors at the same time while also testing and measuring technical performance metrics.

In a blog post Wednesday, CableLabs VP of Wireless David Debrecht highlighted the group’s growing expertise focused on mobile networks, such as involvement in industry efforts to build flexible 5G technologies including at 3GPP, the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project.  “CableLabs is well situated to host the 5G Challenge, given our long-standing role in the industry and our work with multiple vendors to drive interoperable network technologies,” Debrecht wrote.

CableLabs is deeply involved in the industry’s work to develop flexible 5G technologies—including at 3GPPO-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP)—to enable new vendor opportunities, enhance network security and streamline integration and interoperability.

In a statement, CableLabs president and CEO Phil McKinney indicated work would continue beyond the challenge, as it’s committed to ongoing R&D and interoperability testing in mobile network technologies.

“CableLabs is honored to be the host lab for the 5G Challenge,” McKinney commented. “The recognition from the US Department of Commerce is a testament to CableLab’s continued and increasing investment in mobile wireless network technologies, and particularly, our focus on open and interoperable network technologies.”

The NTIA issued its initial notice of inquiry in support of the DoD’s 5G Initiative, the latter which has committed $600 million for 5G testbeds to see how the military could use the technology for its networking needs. The DoD’s focus on 5G is aimed at technology that will enable both military and commercial deployments.

The 5G challenge, meanwhile, is meant to specifically address the shift toward using open implementations of different components for a 5G system, and NTIA had said an aim is to maximize benefits for both 5G stakeholders and the DoD on an accelerated timeline.

It received feedback across standards and industry groups, equipment vendors, major operators, and others who weighed with comments on the NOI to help inform NTIA about how to structure the challenge and goals, incentives and scope, and timeframe and infrastructure.

Further information:

About CableLabs:

As the leading innovation and R&D lab for the broadband cable industry, CableLabs creates global impact through its member companies around the world and its subsidiaries, Kyrio and SCTE. With a state-of-the-art research and innovation facility and collaborative ecosystem with thousands of vendors, CableLabs delivers impactful network technologies for the entire industry.


Accelerating 5G Network Innovation: CableLabs Named Host Lab for 5G Challenge


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