Mavenir, an upstart end-to-end cloud-native network software provider and Xilinx, a leader in adaptive computing, announced today the companies are collaborating to bring to market a unified 4G/5G O-RAN massive MIMO (mMIMO) portfolio to enable Open RAN deployments. The first mMIMO 64TRX joint solution is expected to be available in Q4 2021.
Working together, the two companies have successfully completed end-to-end integration of a first-generation mMIMO solution using Open RAN principles. Held at the Mavenir Lab in Bangalore, India, the integration covered multiple deployment scenarios and was evaluated by six CSPs, all leading global operators. Mavenir delivered the Virtualized RAN (vRAN) support for mMIMO, including Core Network, CU and DU, with Xilinx providing the Category B O-RAN Radio Unit.
“This integration demonstrates an efficient Open RAN massive MIMO solution to achieve diversification of the telecommunications supply chain,” says Pardeep Kohli, President and CEO, Mavenir. “This is an important milestone in the delivery of open and interoperable interfaces enabling the deployment of mMIMO in high density, high mobile traffic metro areas.”
“We were early proponents of Open RAN technology along with Mavenir and actively led in standards development in the industry through many field trials around the world,” said Liam Madden, executive vice president and general manager, Wired and Wireless Group at Xilinx. “With the investment we have done on our market-leading wireless radio technology and massive MIMO R&D, we are excited to collaborate with Mavenir to bring our collective technology and radio system expertise together that will accelerate the deployment of market leading 5G O-RAN massive MIMO radio solutions.”
With history of leadership success in various 4G and 5G network deployments worldwide, the companies are jointly developing the next generation of mMIMO products which will bring the world’s first O-RAN compliant 64TRX mMIMO products that support up to 400MHz instantaneous bandwidth in a compact form factor. Mavenir’s vRAN software supports Multi-User MIMO with up to 16 layers, advanced receiver algorithms, full digital beamforming – all running on Mavenir’s open and flexible cloud-native platform, as well as on other cloud platforms.
These products will leverage Xilinx’s technology platform including RFSoC DFE and Versal AI for advanced beamforming, delivering a fully integrated hardware and software O-RAN compliant mMIMO solution.
The wireless industry’s focus is squarely set on massive MIMO as mid-band spectrum 5G deployments continue, particularly following the record high mid-band 5G spectrum auction that concluded in the U.S. earlier this year. Massive MIMO is especially important in mid-band 5G networks because it allows operators to densify network coverage, increase capacity and coverage, and reduce the need for incremental outdoor sites, all of which translates to less labor and lower costs.
Mavenir and Xilinx have not yet disclosed the specifications for the equipment, but claim the equipment at the top of the portfolio will feature a 64-antenna array for transmitting and receiving signals and support up to 400 megahertz of bandwidth. The initial supply of radios will support C-band spectrum in the U.S., and the companies plan to later support mid-band spectrum for 5G deployments in Europe, the Middle East, and India.
The vendors are coming together to prove that “open RAN massive MIMO radios are a reality, and we will deliver that to the market. Our first open RAN massive MIMO radio will be labs ready by early Q4 and field-trial ready by the end of the year,” said Gilles Garcia, a senior director at Xilinx.
“5G Open RAN has significant momentum in the market with ABI Research forecasting network vendor spending to reach $10 billion by 2026-27 and then surpass traditional RAN at $30 billion by 2030,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, senior research director of 5G at ABI Research. “As Mavenir and Xilinx continue to work together to accelerate O-RAN-based massive MIMO adoption, their solutions will be well-timed to serve this high-growth market with the higher spectral efficiency, performance, power efficiency and cost needed as 5G demand intensifies.”
Rakuten Mobile and Altiostar have announced a number of performance and scalability achievements for the Rakuten Mobile 4G and 5G Open RAN deployments in Japan. That network, built on Altiostar’s cloud-native Open vRAN software, was said to achieve superior levels of automation and performance.
Rakuten Mobile launched its 4G network in April 2020. The wireless network operator ended January 2021 with more than 11,000 base stations that cover 74.9 percent of the population. Rakuten Mobile plans to expand its network coverage to 96 percent of Japan’s population coverage by summer this year. That’s about five years ahead of its own schedule! The network has achieved both high performance (number one in upload speed in market at 16.8Mbps, per OpenSignal), despite having only 1/6th of the spectrum holdings of competing operators in market.
In September 2020, five months after the initial launch, Rakuten Mobile launched a commercial-scale, cloud-native 5G network, using Altiostar’s Open vRAN service. As baseband functions are deployed as VNFs (virtual network functions), Rakuten Mobile automated various operational tasks such as new cell site integration (auto-commissioning), as well as fault detection and automated recovery from failures (self-healing). Due to the automation of its network, Rakuten Mobile reports it can provide a new 5G cell site in four minutes and a 4G site in eight minutes.
The 5G network, using advanced massive MIMO and millimeter wave (mmWave) radios, covers both sub-6 GHz and mmWave frequency bands. Altiostar worked with Qualcomm Technologies, Airspan, and Rakuten Mobile on innovation in mmWave radios based on Qualcomm 5G RAN platforms. Altiostar partnered with NEC and Rakuten Mobile to introduce to the 5G network the sub-6 GHz massive MIMO radios, which were validated as compliant with O-RAN specifications during an O-RAN Alliance Plugfest held this past September in India.
The 5G network has demonstrated impressive performance for end users, with throughput of 1.77 Gbps. This compares favorably to data from a Ookla, which detailed speed test results for Japan in Q3 2020, where the fastest 10% of users realized an average download speed of 719.42 Mbps.
Image Credit: Altiostar
“Rakuten has been a disruptor in the mobile space and our 4G and 5G Open vRAN deployments reflect this strategy,” said Tareq Amin, Representative Director, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Rakuten Mobile. “The performance and stability of the 5G network shows that a cloud-native framework and web-scale architecture can compete with a traditional RAN approach and provide new levels of automation to the network. We will continue to drive the transformation of the mobile industry with a rich and diverse ecosystem with companies including Altiostar, Qualcomm Technologies and NEC.”
“Rakuten has been at the forefront of the Open vRAN movement since it began. The industry is closely watching its every step, and it has been able to demonstrate a high-quality experience for their customers,” said Stéphane Teral, Chief Analyst, LightCounting. “This is validated by the performance metrics of their 5G network and I am excited to see the next steps they take as the network goes national.”
“This is a significant milestone for the Rakuten Mobile and Altiostar partnership towards commercial realization of a high performing, cloud-native 5G RAN architecture,” said Ashraf Dahod, CEO of Altiostar. “The Altiostar container-based solution allows Rakuten Mobile to quickly provision new sites and turn up service for a customer in record time. By leveraging the power of an Open virtualized RAN, Rakuten can transform its network and its business to provide a robust service for the consumer that exceeds that of a traditional operator.”
Altiostar has partnered with Rakuten Mobile to design and deploy its Open vRAN. Rakuten Mobile has standardized on the Altiostar Open vRAN software for all types of deployment models from small cells to macro to massive MIMO, across 4G and 5G radio access technologies.
Altiostar provides 4G and 5G open virtualized RAN (Open vRAN) software that supports open interfaces and virtualizes the radio access baseband functions to build a disaggregated multi-vendor, web-scale, cloud-based mobile network. Operators can add intelligence, quickly adapt the network for different services and automate operations to rapidly scale the network and reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Altiostar collaborates with a growing ecosystem of partners to support a diverse Open RAN supply chain.
The company was selected by Dish last June to deliver its cloud-native O-RAN compliant solution for DISH’s nationwide 5G network buildout, the first of its kind in the U.S. The Altiostar solution will provide openness, modularity, agility and scalability to DISH, enabling faster deployment of new 5G services for consumers and businesses.
The Altiostar Open vRAN solution has been deployed globally, including the world’s first cloud-native commercial-scale mobile network with Rakuten Mobile in Japan. For more information, visit www.altiostar.com
About Rakuten Mobile
Rakuten Mobile, Inc. is a Rakuten Group company responsible for mobile communications, including mobile network operator (MNO) and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) businesses, as well as ICT and energy. Through continuous innovation and the deployment of advanced technology, Rakuten Mobile aims to redefine expectations in the mobile communications industry in order to provide appealing and convenient services that respond to diverse customer needs.
Qualcomm 5G RAN Platform is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
Qualcomm is a trademark or registered trademark of Qualcomm Incorporated.
Samsung Electronics announced on Monday that it has been selected as a 5G network solutions provider for NTT DOCOMO, the leading mobile operator in Japan with 82 million customers. Samsung will support DOCOMO (now wholly owned by NTT Corp.) with its innovative 5G technology, including O-RAN-compliant solutions, to bring enriched 5G services to users, advance digital transformation for businesses, and improve society at large.
As part of its ongoing strategy to deliver an advanced network and provide customers an array of enhanced mobile services, DOCOMO leverages leading edge-technologies in its 5G network.
“As a leading mobile operator, our goal is to provide our customers the best possible services for creating innovative, fun and exciting experiences and finding solutions to social issues,” said Sadayuki Abeta, General Manager of the Radio Access Network Development Department at NTT DOCOMO. “We are excited to collaborate with Samsung for the next phase of 5G Open RAN and accelerate the expansion of our ‘Lightning Speed 5G’ coverage in the nation.”
“We are pleased to be part of DOCOMO’s 5G networks and look forward to continued collaboration in advancing 5G innovation for their customers,” said Satoshi Iwao, Vice President and Head of Network Division at Samsung Electronics Japan. “Our goal is to leverage Samsung’s technical leadership to bring the best network solutions to mobile operators around the world, so they can deliver the next generation of transformative 5G services and electrifying user experiences.”
“The agreement between NTT DOCOMO and Samsung is significant,” said Stefan Pongratz, Vice President at Dell’Oro. “NTT DOCOMO has a history of being at the forefront with new and innovative technologies and this announcement cements Samsung’s position as a major 5G RAN supplier.”
Samsung says they have pioneered the successful delivery of 5G end-to-end solutions including chipsets, radios, and core. Through ongoing research and development, Samsung drives the industry to advance 5G networks with its market-leading product portfolio from fully virtualized RAN and Core to private network solutions and AI-powered automation tools. The company is currently providing connectivity to hundreds of millions of users around the world.
This is the latest in a series of recent contract awarded to Samsung. The company scored its biggest win when it received a $6.6 billion 5G contract from Verizon, replacing Nokia. It got a contract from Canada’s SaskTel earlier this month and is also in talks with European telecom operators to gain a foothold on the continent.
It is supplying 5G RAN to New Zealand’s Spark and last week announced it will be the sole 4G/5G core and RAN supplier to Sasktel. Samsung also supplies 5G RAN and core equipment to SK Telecom and KT in its home market.
NTT DoCoMo already has a broad slate of 5G vendors. Fujitsu supplies RAN equipment, NEC core and edge, Nokia baseband and Ericsson (a major supplier to rival KDDI) supplies RAN optimization. Six weeks after DoCoMo, a founding member of the O-RAN Alliance, unveiled its “5G Open RAN Ecosystem” aimed at “accelerating open RAN introduction to operators” worldwide. Members include NEC, Fujitsu, Mavenir, Intel and Qualcomm which are DoCoMo’s own team of preferred open RAN solution vendors.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today adopted a Notice of Inquiry to start a formal discussion on the opportunities and potential challenges presented by open and virtualized radio access networks (RANs), and how the FCC might leverage these concepts to support network security and 5G leadership.
The FCC seeks comment on the current status of development and deployment, whether and how the FCC might foster the success of these technologies, and how to support competitiveness and new entrant access to this emerging market.
The Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) concept promotes the use of open interface
specifications (not standards as the FCC incorrectly stated) in the portion of the telecommunications network that connects wireless devices—like mobile phones—to the core of the network.
This can be implemented in vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology based on open interfaces and standards. In addition, Open RAN allows disaggregation of the radio access network, which can enable the use of interchangeable technologies that promote network security and public safety. The FCC is seeking input from academics, industry, and the public on what steps are required to deploy Open RAN networks broadly and at scale.
The Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeks comment on the current status of Open RAN development and deployment in networks in the U.S. and abroad. It asks about the role of established large manufacturers and new entrants in setting standards for this new network architecture. It seeks input on what steps should be taken by the FCC, federal partners, industry, academia, and others to accelerate the timeline for Open RAN standards development. Further, it seeks comment on any challenges or other considerations related to the deployment, integration, and testing of systems based on Open RAN specifications. The NOI also requests comment on the costs and benefits associated with Open RAN development and deployment.
The FCC’s Technological Advisory Committee, a group of industry representatives that provides technical advice to the Commission, recently recommended that the Commission encourage the development of the Open RAN ecosystem by supporting Open RAN innovation, standardization, testing, and security and reliability. The Commission also hosted a Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks in September 2020.
This Notice of Inquiry seeks input on the status of Open RAN and virtualized network environments: where the technology is today and what steps are required to deploy Open RAN networks broadly and at scale. It also seeks comment on whether and, if so, how deployment of Open RAN-compliant networks could further the Commission’s policy goals and statutory obligations, advance legislative priorities, and benefit American consumers by making state-of-the-art wireless broadband available more quickly and to more people in more parts of the country.
What the Notice of Inquiry Would Do:
- Describe the relationship of recent government action to Open RAN development, including through Commission and other U.S. government action, legislative developments, and international activity.
- Seek comment on the current status of Open RAN development and deployment domestically and internationally.
- Seek comment on potential public interest benefits in promoting Open RAN development and deployment, including increased competition, network vendor diversity, affordability for consumers, network security and public safety, and other potential benefits.
- Seek comment on additional considerations regarding Open RAN development and deployment, including potential software vulnerabilities or risks posed by a virtualized operating environment. o Seek comment on barriers to Open RAN development and deployment and whether and what Commission efforts could be undertaken to promote Open RAN development and deployment.
- Seek comment on how the Commission can collaborate with and/or leverage ongoing Open RAN research and development activities in academia and other federal agencies.
- Discuss and seek comment on the costs and benefits of Open RAN deployment.
Diagram courtesy of TIP Open RAN Project
It’s important to note that there is no Open RAN work ongoing within SDOs like ITU-R, ITU-T, ETSI or IEEE. Nor is there any Open RAN activity within 3GPP. Instead, there are three consortia/forums that are working on Open RAN specifications and market awareness. They are: O-RAN Alliance, TIP Open RAN project and GSMA which will surely be the marketing arm for this technology.
In addition, there are several consortiums in the U.S., Europe, and Asia that are trying to promote Open RAN technology.
In the U.S., the Open RAN Policy Coalition “represents a group of companies formed to promote policies that will advance the adoption of open and interoperable solutions in the Radio Access Network (RAN) as a means to create innovation, spur competition and expand the supply chain for advanced wireless technologies including 5G.”
“Coalition members believe that by standardizing or “opening” the protocols and interfaces between the various subcomponents (radios, hardware and software) in the RAN, we move to an environment where networks can be deployed with a more modular design without being dependent upon a single vendor.”
The above statement is quite strange, considering that 1) There is NO ongoing standardization work on Open RAN (consortiums produce specs but NOT standards) and 2) An “open” network should not exclude vendors (e.g. Huawei, ZTE) or cause vendor lock-in.
However, it seems vendor lock-in is how Open RAN technology is being deployed today with various vendors and operators banding together to offer Open RAN technology solutions. Some examples of that include:
- Rakuten-NEC “RCS” which has been endorsed by Telefonica and supposedly sold to 15 network operators.
- Mavenir, a U.S. based software developer, has teamed up with MTI, a Taiwanese maker of radio units.
- Parallel Wireless, a Mavenir rival, has a similar partnership with China’s Comba.
- NTT DoCoMo’s open RAN ecosystem includes some prominent names in the IT and telecom sectors, such as Dell, Fujitsu, Intel, Mavenir, NEC, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Red Hat, VMware, Wind River and Xilinx.
- Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Vodafone pledged in a MoU to back Open RAN systems that take advantage of new open virtualized architectures, software and hardware with a view to enhancing the flexibility, efficiency and security of European networks in the 5G era.
Light Reading’s Iain Morris coined the term “Vendor Lock-in 2.0.” He says that Open RAN deployment is all about trading one form of vendor lock-in for another, as depicted in this illustration, courtesy of Light Reading:
Market research firm Omdia’s view is that “preferred partnerships” will take shape between software developers and hardware manufacturers. Its latest forecast is that open and “virtualized” radio access network products will account for roughly 9% of the total market by the end of 2024, up from just 1% in 2020.
However, rather than encouraging new RAN companies, Omdia believes the big five – Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE and Samsung – will “probably seize the majority” of this business. The challengers, it says, simply “cannot achieve the same economies of scale as the incumbents.”
The Telecom Infra Project (TIP), one of several industry consortiums creating specifications for open radio access networks (Open RAN), recently announced a new 5G Private Networks subgroup.
We don’t know whether the TIP OpenRAN project or the O-RAN Alliance has (and will have) more industry influence and impact. In addition, there are many splinter partnerships forming; many of them led by Rakuten Mobile. What’s mind boggling is that none of the groups have liaison agreements with either ITU-R WP5D (responsible for all IMT standards, including 4G and 5G) or 3GPP (the prime spec writing organization for mobile networks).
5G Private Networks contribute to improve the quality of experience for 5G connectivity, including better coverage and capacity through on-premise radio equipment, the ability to support low latency and high bandwidth service requirements through edge compute & routing of private traffic, and the potential to support the increasing demand for privacy and localized data analytics.
For network operators, 5G Private Networks also create the opportunity to implement new network management and operational models, enabling full automation of the operation of the enterprise network while improving end customer application experience.
However, to fully capture the benefits of 5G Private Networks, a different approach is required, because traditional network architectures, focused on large scale deployments and operations don’t have the right economics or the operational flexibility to efficiently deliver on the emerging needs of enterprise customers.
The 5G Private Networks Solution Group will develop a new approach to manage and operate 5G Private Networks, based on a cloud-native architecture, and making use of a new class of software management tools, based on the paradigms currently used for the cloud, but adapted to deliver the requirements of a telecom network environment. Telefónica will test the solution in their local TIP Community Lab in Madrid and then move to field trials in Málaga (Spain).
Juan Carlos Garcia, SVP Technology Innovation & Ecosystem, Telefónica, and TIP Board Director said: “This new solution group will enable operators to address the exciting opportunities that 5G is creating in the enterprise segment, both through valuable features for our customers and more efficient network operations. The TIP community is the perfect environment for this innovation, as it will allow us to leverage multiple current project groups (Open Core Networks, OpenRAN) to deliver an end-to-end Minimum Viable Product that we will then test in Telefonica’s TIP Community Lab.”
In particular, the new Solutions Group will leverage previous work contributed to TIP’s OpenRAN Project Group, on a first version of a CI/CD platform that applies traditional IT methodologies to automate integration, testing and deployment of OpenRAN software.
Ihab Tarazi, CTO and SVP, Networking and Solutions, Dell Technologies and TIP Board Director, said: “For open networks to deliver their benefits, the telecom industry needs an abstraction layer that helps integrate different components into end-to-end solutions. New software management tools based on the ones currently used for the cloud can address this need, and this Solution Group is a timely initiative for the industry to collaborate on making this happen.”
Caroline Chan, VP and GM Network Business Incubation Division, Intel and TIP Board Director, said: “Through the recently launched solution groups, TIP is expanding its scope to include the validation of interoperability between different elements across the whole network, and insights and recommendations about how to operate them. The new 5G Private Networks Solution Group is a strong example of this approach. With dedicated local private high-performance network connectivity as a key emerging deployment model for 5G and edge buildout, this group can help foster important ecosystem collaboration.”
As a result, this new solution group will help drive:
- Improved network economics, through the use of commoditized hardware and open source software, and more efficient and flexible network operations and automation, enabled by the adoption of cloud-native technologies.
- Dedicated local high-performance 5G connectivity and edge computing infrastructure, appealing to multiple B2B & B2B2C verticals.
- Better network security and performance.
Telefónica is one of the five European telcos that announced that they will work together on open RANs for mobile networks. The others are Deutsche Telekom, Orange, TIM and Vodafone. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) for that grouping commits the five to the O-RAN Alliance, which has 27 network operator members from AT&T to Vodafone, and to “other industry initiatives, such as the Telecom Infra Project, that contribute to the development of open RAN and that aim to create a healthy and competitive open RAN ecosystem and advance R&D efforts.”
Separately, the charter of the new OpenRAN Orchestration and Management Automation (ROMA) subgroup was approved by the OpenRAN PG. ROMA focuses on aggregating and harmonizing mobile network operators requirements on Open RAN orchestration and lifecycle management automation, fostering ecosystem partners to develop products and solutions that meet ROMA requirements.
The goal of ROMA is to:
· Develop a common set of use cases for OpenRAN lifecycle management automation and orchestration that are agreed across multiple MNO and OpenRAN ecosystem members
· Develop Technical Requirements on products and solutions that support the identified use cases, including interfaces and data models
· Facilitate product and solution development through lab testing, field trials, participating TIP Plugfest and badging on TIP exchange etc.
· Support large scale OpenRAN deployment with lifecycle management automation, including Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) frameworks and tool sets.
It will bring better coverage and capacity through on-premise radio equipment, says TIP, and the ability to support low latency and high bandwidth service requirements through edge compute and routing of private traffic, and the potential to support the increasing demand for privacy and localized data analytics.
About the Telecom Infra Project:
The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) is a global community of companies and organizations that are driving infrastructure solutions to advance global connectivity. Half of the world’s population is still not connected to the internet, and for those who are, connectivity is often insufficient. This limits access to the multitude of consumer and commercial benefits provided by the internet, thereby impacting GDP growth globally. However, a lack of flexibility in the current solutions – exacerbated by a limited choice in technology providers – makes it challenging for operators to efficiently build and upgrade networks.
Founded in 2016, TIP is a community of diverse participants that includes hundreds of companies – from service providers and technology partners, to systems integrators and other connectivity stakeholders. We are working together to develop, test and deploy open, disaggregated, and standards-based solutions that deliver the high-quality connectivity that the world needs – now and in the decades to come.
Find out more: www.telecominfraproject.com
Learn more and join the new 5G Private Networks Solution Group here.
In Japanese, Rakuten stands for “optimism.” This philosophy lies at the core of the company’s brand. They may be the leader is selling 5G mobile core network specs and virtualization network software to global network operators in the absence of any ITU-T standards or 3GPP detailed implementation specs. [Please refer to References for more details, especially on the 3GPP Technical Specifications 23.501, 23.502, 23.503.]
Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) has been sold to a total of 15 customers so far, according to the company’s mobile networking CTO Tareq Amin.
“We have already 15 global customers. A lot of people don’t know that the sales already started. And these are not small customers. Some of them are very, very massive,” he said this week during a virtual roundtable with members of the media. “I’m really delighted to see that we finally are reaching a stage where possibly in the next quarter or so we have a very large contract about the entire RCP stack.”
Regarding network performance, Amin explained that success factors are based on virtualization, standardization, optimization and automatizing. Combined, they lead to more cost efficiency, innovation, affordability and growth.
Rakuten Mobile was the first to deploy a large-scale OpenRAN commercial network and the first fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network. And Amin refutes the perceived limitations of open radio access networks, arguing that Rakuten Mobile’s only limitation today is spectrum assets.
“With less than 20% of spectrum assets compared to our competitors, we are doing great. OpenRAN does not mean we have an average network; the truth is that we have a world-class network,” he added, explaining that once Rakuten Mobile moves from five to 20MHz, there will be a significant improvement in performance, while 5G deployment is also accelerating.
Despite launching a commercial service during a global pandemic, Rakuten Mobile already has received more than 2 million applications, with the majority of applications made online rather than in stores.
Rakuten appears to have broadened its focus a few months later when it announced it acquired operational support system (OSS) provider Innoeye for the “Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).”
Rakuten officially took the wraps off RCP in October 2020 with an announcement that it was “bringing 5G to the word.” The business is based in Singapore and headed by Rabih Dabboussi, who previously worked at networking giant Cisco and cybersecurity company DarkMatter, according to his LinkedIn profile, before joining Rakuten in May 2020.
RCP essentially is the platform on which Rakuten is building its 4G and 5G networks in Japan. Amin explained that the offering consists of a number of different, interchangeable pieces including network orchestration, cloud management and artificial intelligence provided by a range of participating suppliers. RCP customers can pick and choose which parts of the platform they wish to use.
From Amin’s email to this author: “NEC/Rakuten 5GC is 3GPP based standardized software for network service and a de facto standard container basis infrastructure (“infrastructure agnostic”). It is a forward looking approach, but not proprietary.”
“NEC/Rakuten 5GC openness are realized by implementation of “Open Interface” defined in 3GPP specifications (TS 23.501, 502, 503 and related stage 3 specifications). 3GPP 5GC specification requires cloud native architecture as the general concept (service based architecture). It should be distributed, stateless, and scalable. However, an explicit reference model is out of scope for the 3GPP specification. Therefore NEC 5GC cloud native architecture is based on above mentioned 3GPP concept as well as ETSI NFV treats “container” and “cloud native”, which NEC is also actively investigating to apply its product.”
RCP essentially positions Rakuten against cloud giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, companies that are also selling cloud-based network management and operational services to network operators globally. Indeed, Microsoft last year acquired Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks in pursuit of that goal.
Rakuten’s sales of RCP are directly linked to the success of the company’s ongoing 4G and 5G network buildouts in Japan. As a result, the company has been quick to address concerns over the performance of its mobile network in Japan which is both based on RCP.
“What we’ve done in 4G was enabling a world-first virtualized infrastructure. For 5G, we have a world-first containerized architecture, completely cloud-native radio access software that is (made up of) disaggregated micro services,” he explained.
“Between LTE, which is 40MHz and about 500MHz of spectrum assets, we think we have a very strong position to be able to increase capacity and demand.”
“We’re very confident about our business model and our business plan. And the idea to have zero churn in the network is also a unique value proposition that really emphasizes the critical role of the [Rakuten Mobile] ecosystem and the critical role of data for our long term viability,” said Amin.
Japan wireless network operator NTT Docomo has partnered with 12 companies to create the ‘5G Open RAN Ecosystem.’ The companies are: Dell Technologies Japan, Fujitsu, Intel, Mavenir, NEC, NTT Data, Nvidia, Qualcomm Technologies, Red Hat, VMware, Wind River and Xilinx.
Their plan is to accelerate open radio access networks (Open RAN) and help enable global network deployment to serve diverse company and operator needs in the 5G era.
The O-RAN Alliance, which NTT Docomo has helped lead since its launch, has developed specifications and promoted products that allow operators to combine disaggregated base station equipment. Docomo has been actively developing the products for its own 4G/5G network in Japan.
Docomo will start talks with the 12 companies on accelerating open RAN introduction to operators.
Specifically, NTT DOCOMO’s target is to package best-of-breed RAN and to introduce, operate and manage them based on demands from operators considering open RAN introduction. By leveraging its years of activities in driving open network and know-how (which realized the world’s first open RAN for 5G using O-RAN), NTT DOCOMO is committed to maximize companies’ strengths in furtherance of the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem, and providing high-quality and flexible networks.
5G Open RAN Ecosystem:
Image courtesy of Viavi Solutions
Additionally, NTT DOCOMO will develop vRAN (virtualized RAN) with higher flexibility and scalability to further drive open RAN targeting commercialization in 2022. As COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) servers can be used and dedicated equipment are not required for vRAN, it is possible to realize flexible and cost efficient networks. As of today, NTT DOCOMO will start discussion towards verification of vRAN, including performance assessments. As for the vRAN verification environment that will be constructed, opportunities for remote usage will be made available for operators themselves to freely conduct tests.
NTT DOCOMO says it will continue to cooperate with various industry partners towards accelerating wide adoption of open network, especially O-RAN and vRAN, which can cater for diversifying needs with flexibility and agility.
Comment & Analysis::
As with the two other Open RAN alliances (TIP Open RAN and O-RAN), the new 5G Open RAN Ecosystem does NOT have a formal liaison agreement with either 3GPP or ITU-R WP 5D (4G-LTE and IMT 2020 standards). Yet they are all trying to implement disaggregated network elements/equipment for 4G and 5G.
Last month legacy mobile operators Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone Group established a collaboration or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering the rollout and development of open RAN technology, in a bid to ensure the continent keeps up with early pacesetters, namely Rakuten Mobile and NTT Docomo in Japan.
Today, Telecom Italia (TIM) said it has joined that initiative to support the development and implementation of Open RAN as the technology of choice for future mobile networks across Europe. TIM said it was committed to the development of innovative mobile network systems that used open virtualized architecture to facilitate increasingly agile, flexible, secure and functional 5G services.
However, there are no standards or 3GPPP specifications on Open RAN. Therefore, one must question if there will be different versions coming out of each consortium? Will the virtualized Open RAN architecture be implemented consistently? Will the 4G/5G endpoints be affected by different Open RAN implementations?
What is Open RAN is a good tutorial on this increasingly important subject.
NTT DOCOMO to Establish a 5G Consortium in Thailand
NTT Docomo and an international group of several other companies have recently established a consortium to provide 5G services, first in Thailand and later in other Asia Pacific countries with the possible inclusion of additional partners. The initial members of the 5G Global Enterprise solution Consortium (5GEC) will be Activio, AGC, Advanced Wireless Network, Exeo Asia, Fujitsu, Loxley Public Company, Mobile Innovation, NEC Corp, NEC Networks & System Integration, NTT Communications, NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting, NTT Docomo, and NTT Ltd.
Four of Europe’s biggest network operators have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to express their individual commitment to the implementation and deployment of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) as the technology of choice for future mobile networks across Europe. In a statement, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Vodafone pledged to back Open RAN systems that take advantage of new open virtualized architectures, software and hardware with a view to enhancing the flexibility, efficiency and security of European networks in the 5G era.
The four operators committed to working together with existing and new ecosystem partners, industry bodies like the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), as well as European policy makers, to ensure Open RAN quickly reaches competitive parity with traditional RAN solutions. “This initiative is an important milestone towards a diverse, reinvigorated supplier ecosystem and the availability of carrier-grade Open RAN technology for a timely commercial deployment in Europe,” they said in a joint statement.
The MNOs added that the introduction of Open RAN, virtualisation and automation would pave the way for a fundamental change in the way operators manage networks and deliver services, allowing them to add or shift capacity more quickly for end users, automatically resolve network incidents or provide enterprise level services on-demand for industry 4.0.
The four operators also expressed the hope that the European Commission and national governments will agree to play an important role in fostering and developing the Open RAN ecosystem by funding early deployments, research and development, open test lab facilities as well as incentivising supply chain diversity by lowering barriers to entry for small suppliers and startups.
The MoU comes a few days after Telefonica announced plans to use open RAN technology at around 1,000 of its mobile sites in Germany. Vodafone made a similar commitment at around 2,600 of its masts and rooftops in the UK at the end of last year.
Without orders from numerous large operators, open RAN producers have struggled to increase volumes and generate the necessary economies of scale.
“This is like putting the band back together,” says Gabriel Brown, a principal analyst with Heavy Reading, a sister company to Light Reading. “The European operators are saying if we co-operate then we can have a meaningful influence and impact on the way open RAN develops.”
Operators are drawn to open RAN because it would allow them to mix and match vendors, using radio software from one vendor in tandem with general-purpose equipment developed by another. Traditional radio access networks typically force operators to buy all their components from the same supplier.
While today’s statement is light on details of firm commitments, Vodafone has already promised to use open RAN technology at around 2,600 of its mobile sites in the UK, while Telefónica this week said it would do the same at roughly 1,000 sites in Germany.
Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s telecom incumbent, has had less to say about rollout targets, although in December it revealed plans to build an “O-RAN town” in Neubrandenburg this year. “This will be a small-scale commercial deployment, which will encompass up to 150 cells, and will bring open RAN into a real 4G/5G network environment,” said a Deutsche Telekom spokesperson by email.
That leaves France’s Orange, which has now made a jaw-dropping commitment: Starting in 2025, it will buy only open RAN equipment when upgrading its European networks.
“From 2025, our intention is that all new equipment deployed by Orange in Europe should be based on open RAN,” says Arnaud Vamparys, Orange’s senior vice president of radio networks. “This is a good time to send a clear message.”
His expectation is that over this timeframe open RAN will reach “parity” with traditional RAN for deployment in a macro network. That would mean resolving some of the performance shortcomings that have mainly restricted open RAN to rural and less demanding conditions.
“2025 sounds about right,” says Brown. “The integrated systems are really setting a very high bar and open RAN is behind on features and performance right now.”
Brown told Light Reading he was encouraged by some of the recent open RAN activity in the semiconductor industry, citing baseband advances by Marvell and radio innovation by Xilinx. But he says it is too early to say open RAN will definitely be a mainstream success by the mid-2020s. “Can this be the best way to build a radio access network? If it isn’t, it is probably not going to succeed.”
“We continue to work to unlock the value of these European programs because clearly there are industry-leading initiatives of some of the manufacturing being brought back to Europe, especially on open RAN,” said Markus Haas, Telefónica Deutschland’s CEO, when asked during an analyst call this week if the telecom sector could be a beneficiary of Europe’s COVID-19 recovery fund.
“There is high interest so that the overall industry, the vendor landscape, might change or might be empowered by additional funds in order to progress and accelerate open RAN.”
While Ericsson and Nokia say they are now investing in open RAN technology, Vodafone looks determined to use alternative players for its 2,600-site rollout. Supplier diversification has topped the agenda for other service providers, as well.
“We want Europe to play a role in that evolution and it has to unite a bit to achieve this goal,” says Orange’s Vamparys. “There are lots of US and Japanese companies pushing strongly for the acceleration of open RAN. If we don’t communicate and help other companies, it could create an unbalanced situation.”
SOURCE: ORAN Alliance
Telefónica Deutschland named Altiostar, KMW, NEC and Supermicro as potential open RAN partners in a presentation it gave this week, while Deutsche Telekom has been in talks with Dell, Fujitsu, Mavenir, Nokia and NEC.
Vodafone has already carried out open RAN trials with Mavenir and Parallel Wireless.
The region’s biggest gap is probably in silicon, says Heavy Reading’s Brown. Most of the high-profile chipmakers developing open RAN technology, including Marvell and Xilinx, are based in the US.
Arm, a UK-based firm whose processor designs are used in many of the world’s smartphones, is a member of the O-RAN Alliance, the group responsible for open RAN specifications. But it is also currently the target of a $40 billion takeover move by Nvidia, a US semiconductor maker.
In the meantime, any plan to use part of the European recovery fund to support open RAN could meet with political resistance given the healthy state of the telecom sector compared with other industries, including airlines, hospitality, retail and tourism.
John Strand, the CEO of advisory firm Strand Consult, lashed out at the suggestion that open RAN could benefit from Europe’s COVID-19 stimulus package.
“Do these companies need subsidies? Is Telefónica in such a bad position that it needs public funding?” he told Light Reading. “We are living in a time when numbers of companies are in deep financial crisis because of COVID-19 and telecom operators, which definitely haven’t been hit, are asking for subsidies.”
Market forecasters now think open RAN will account for about one tenth of the overall market for radio access network products by the mid-2020s:
- Omdia expects industry revenues to increase from just $70 million in 2019 to about $3.2 billion in 2024, giving it a 9.4% share of the 4G and 5G market.
- Dell’Oro, another analyst firm, is in broad agreement: Last year, it predicted operators would spend somewhere north of $3 billion on open RAN products in 2024.
Harry Baldock of Total Telecom writes, “The month of November was one of quiet progress for 5G, with more momentum steadily being gained for long-term trends towards private network deployments and open RAN innovation.”
Private 5G networks could be viable connectivity options for major industries like manufacturing and shipping, giving them not only access to the latest technologies to enhance efficiency, but also the flexibility to structure their network however they please.
In Europe, the German telecom regulator announced in November that it has awarded 88 licences for private 5G networks this year and expects more to come. For example, Nokia recently installed a private 5G network in Nuremburg for industrial IoT specialist MYNXG. In France, electronics manufacturer Lacroix is working with with Orange and Ericsson to create a 5G factory, and in the UK BT is installing a 5G network into Belfast Harbour, while Huawei is creating a private 5G testbed in Cambridge.
There has also been significant movement in the U.S., with General Motor’s new Factory ZERO installing a private 5G network from Verizon to manufacture the next generation of electric vehicles.
However, it should be remembered that despite its promise, private 5G networks are also still very much in their infancy, with a survey from STL Partners showing that the majority of enterprises still rely primarily on Wi-Fi and ethernet or fixed broadband for their connectivity needs.
Meanwhile, Open RAN has been gaining momentum for some months now as we reported yesterday in this IEEE Techblog post. In November, Dish and Qualcomm announced that they are set to work together on the U.S.’s first Open RAN-compliant (which spec?) 5G network. Similarly, in the UK, Vodafone’s August pilot for Open RAN, that took place in Wales, is being scaled up to 2,600 Open RAN sites in Wales and England, potentially using them to replace Huawei gear.
Meanwhile, companies like Mavenir continue to rapidly develop open RAN solutions, recently boasting of supporting 2G–5G for its open RAN packet core, thanks to a recent acquisition of ip.access.
Baldock concludes, “it seems fair to say that Open RAN is here to stay and is no longer something of a novelty. While many issues remain around things like standardization (e.g. no liaison with either ITU, ETSI or 3GPP) the movement is beginning to see increasing interest from operators and policymakers alike.”
In an updated forecast out this month, Informa owned Omdia predicts that Open RAN is likely to generate about $3.2 billion in annual revenues by 2024. That would make it about 9.4% of the total 4G and 5G cellular market.
That forecast implies a massive increase on last year’s sales of just $70 million (see Dell’Oro forecast below), and Omdia’s Open RAN numbers have been raised significantly in the last few months. Previously, it was expecting Open RAN to generate about $2.1 billion in revenues in 2024.
Telco buy-in and support is critical, according to Daryl Schoolar, practice leader at Omdia responsible for the firm’s Open RAN forecasts. “Mobile operators remain the real driving force behind the development of open virtual RAN,” he says. “I see this as a positive sign for the market versus other technology and network developments I have seen during my career that were driven by vendors and ultimately went nowhere. The bigger market opportunity is with brownfield deployments, but this takes more time to accomplish as operators have to integrate open RAN with their legacy network systems and make sure those legacy networks and services are not adversely impacted,” Schoolar added.
Here are some of the network operators that have committed to OpenRAN:
- Japan’s Rakuten, which already operates a 4G and 5G network based on open RAN. While customer numbers remain low, its early success has undoubtedly encouraged others.
- Telefónica and Rakuten have announced a partnership to accelerate the development of Open RAN technology for 5G access and core networks, and the associated operations support systems (OSS). They will jointly test, develop and procure Open RAN systems.
- Dish Network, is another greenfield builder that is using open RAN technology to roll out a fourth mobile network in the US. which is primarily focused on business customers.
- Orange sees a role for Open RAN vendors to provide more “plug and play” indoor coverage for businesses through 2021 and 2022. Open RAN could also play a part in the macro network, although that is more likely to come from 2023, and still requires work.
Dell’Oro Group (see forecast below) says: “Dish is running into delays in the US market, Rakuten is moving forward at a rapid pace in Japan deploying a variety of both sub 6 GHz and mmWave RAN systems. In addition, some of the Japanese telecom equipment vendors (e.g. NEC) are reporting that the lion share of their radio shipments are already O-RAN compatible.”
Open RAN progress:
Omdia notes that Open RAN is a potential dilemma for the big telco equipment vendors like Ericsson and Nokia (which intends to supply Open RAN products). The risk is that it decreases their market share for traditional cellular gear, as wireless network providers opt for Open RAN products developed by alternative suppliers. Yet open RAN might also bring opportunities in new markets for the old guard. “Either way, vendors cannot ignore this market trend,” says Omdia.
Gabriel Brown, a principal analyst at Heavy Reading, a sister company to Omdia and Light Reading, says he is positive about Open RAN but warns against expectations of liftoff next year. “The right timeline to view it on is a four-to-five-year timeline,” he said in a discussion with Light Reading this week. “I think next year continues to be primarily trials, scaling the trials … and some operators moving into production networks, but I don’t think it’s the year when it all takes off.”
Separately, Dell’Oro Group’s latest Open RAN forecast, projects that Open RAN baseband and radio investments—including hardware, software, and firmware excluding services—will more than double in 2020 with cumulative investments on track to surpass $5B over the forecast period.
Open and Virtual RAN continues to gain momentum, bolstered by Ericsson now formalizing its support with its Cloud-RAN announcement. The uptake remains mixed. In this blog we will discuss three key takeaways for the 3Q20 quarter including:
1) The primary objective of Open RAN is to address market concentration and vendor lock-in;
2) Open RAN revenues are trending ahead of schedule;
3) Not all Open RAN is disruptive.
Source: Dell’Oro Group
Dell”Oro says that the more favorable Open RAN outlook to a confluence of factors including:
- Verification from live networks the technology is working in some settings;
- Three of the five incumbent RAN suppliers are planning to support various forms of Open RAN – “Partial Open RAN” (open and virtual but not multi-vendor) are at this juncture captured in the Open RAN estimates meaning we require the first two pillars but we are excluding the third multi-vendor requirement as a necessity to reflect the Open RAN movement;
- The geopolitical uncertainty has escalated significantly in the past six months, with multiple operators reassessing and/or reviewing their reliance on Huawei’s RAN portfolio, resulting in an improved entry point for the Open RAN suppliers;
- Progress with full virtualization is firming up, with multiple suppliers announcing the commercial availability of V-RAN, consisting of both vCU and vDU;
- Operators are increasingly optimistic the technology will move beyond the rural settings for brownfield deployments;
- Policies to stimulate Open RAN are on the rise.
Source: Dell’Oro Group
“We estimate total open RAN revenues are tracking ahead of schedule,” wrote Stefan Pongratz of Dell’Oro Group, noting the market research firm recently raised its 2020 open RAN revenue forecast to $300,000 from $200,000. “On the other hand, the lion share of any ‘security’ related RAN swaps are still going to the traditional RAN players, suggesting the technology for basic radio systems remains on track but the smaller players also need to ramp up investments rapidly to get ready for prime time and secure larger brownfield wins.”
https://omdia.tech.informa.com/OM011039/Open-RAN-commercial-progress-in-2020 (must be an Omdia client to access)