NTT to offer optical technology-based next-generation network services under IOWN initiative; 6G to follow
Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) said it will start providing its first services under an optical technology-based next-generation network initiative to its corporate clients. The major Japanese telecommunications company plans to start offering the services from March 16 for a monthly fee of 1.98 million yen through its regional arms Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp. and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone West Corp.
NTT rival telco KDDI Corp. will also take part in the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) initiative which was first announced by NTT in 2019. It’s goal is to reduce electricity consumption (power) and achieve high-capacity communication by converting electric signals into optical ones to cope with surging network traffic. It will join the IOWN Global Forum, comprising over 100 members including NTT and many information technology companies in and outside Japan. Founding IOWN members are NTT, Sony and Intel. The forum will be discussing technical specifications for optical and wireless networks with a view to developing an international standard for 6G communications.
Source: IOWN Global Forum
The two Japanese rival firms will work together to make IOWN a 6G platform, pundits said. That’s amazing as all previous IMT standards (3G, 4G, 5G) were developed by 3GPP and then ITU-R WP 5D.
At a news conference, NTT Senior Executive Vice President Katsuhiko Kawazoe said: “We hope [IOWN] will help resolve social issues and create new value.”
NTT plans to announce the second round of IOWN services as early as 2025.
KDDI claims world’s first 5G Standalone (SA) Open RAN site using Samsung vRAN and Fujitsu radio units
Japan’s KDDI is claiming to have turned on the world’s first commercial 5G Standalone (SA) Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) site, using equipment and software from Samsung Electronics and Fujitsu. KDDI used O-RAN Alliance compliant [1.] technology, including Samsung’s 5G virtualized CU (vCU) and virtualized DU (vDU) as well as Fujitsu’s radio units (MMU: Massive MIMO Units).
Note 1. O-RAN Alliance specifications are being used for RAN module interfaces that support interoperation between different Open RAN vendors’ equipment.
The first network site went live in Kawasaki, Kanagawa today. KDDI, together with its two partners, will deploy this Open RAN network in some parts of Japan and continue its deployment and development, embracing openness and virtualization in KDDI’s commercial network. Note that both Rakuten-Japan and Dish Network/Amazon AWS have promised 5G SA Open RAN but neither company seems close to deploying it.
Virtualization and O-RAN technology replaces dedicated hardware with software elements that can run on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers. This brings flexibility and agility to KDDI’s network, allowing the operator to offer enhanced mobile services to its users. KDDI says this architecture will deliver reliability, while accelerating deployment of Open RAN throughout Japan, including in rural areas. Meanwhile, 5G SA will deliver superior performance, higher speeds and lower latency and make possible advanced services/applications, such as network slicing, automation, service chaining and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC).
Traditional RAN vs. Open RAN Configuration. Source: KDDI
Characteristics of this site:
This Open RAN site leverages fully-virtualized RAN software, provided by Samsung, that runs on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers. Furthermore, by pursuing an open network approach between radio units and baseband unit, KDDI used Samsung’s baseband and Fujitsu’s Massive MIMO Units, which are connected with an open interface.
- Fully-virtualized 5G RAN software can be swiftly deployed using existing hardware infrastructure, which brings greater flexibility in deployment. New 5G SA technologies―such as network slicing, Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) and others―powered by 5G vRAN, will deliver superior performance, higher speeds and lower latency, allowing KDDI users to experience a range of new next-generation services and immersive applications.
- Using an open interface between radio units and baseband unit, Open RAN not only ensures security and reliability but also enables operators to implement best-of-breed solutions from different partners and build an optimal network infrastructure for maximized performance.
- The virtualized network allows the use of general-purpose hardware (COTS servers) across the country, which will greatly increase deployment efficiencies. Additionally, by leveraging system automation, fully-virtualized RAN software can reduce deployment time, enabling swift nationwide expansion, including rural areas.
Comments from Kazuyuki Yoshimura, Chief Technology Officer, KDDI Corporation:
“Together with Samsung and Fujitsu, we are excited to successfully develop and turn on the world’s first commercial 5G SA Open RAN site powered by vRAN. Taking a big step, we look forward to continue leading network innovation and advancing our network capabilities, towards our vision of delivering cutting-edge 5G services to our customers.”
Comments from Woojune Kim, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Sales & Marketing, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics:
“Leveraging our industry-leading 5G capabilities, we are excited to mark another milestone with KDDI and Fujitsu. Samsung stands out for its leadership in 5G vRAN and Open RAN with wide-scale commercial deployment experiences across the globe. While KDDI and Samsung are at the forefront of network innovation, we look forward to expanding our collaboration towards 5G SA, to bring compelling 5G services to users.”
Note: Samsung released its first 5G vRAN portfolio in early 2021 following its blockbuster RAN deal with Verizon, which was the first operator to commercially deploy the new equipment. Samsung also gained a foothold in Vodafone’s plan to deploy 2,500 open RAN sites in the southwest of England and most of Wales. Samsung’s open RAN compliant vRAN hardware and software were previously deployed in 5G NSA commercial networks in Japan and Britain, but this is the first 5G SA deployment. We wonder if it is “cloud native?” Hah, hah, hah!
Comments from Shingo Mizuno, Corporate Executive Officer and Vice Head of System Platform Business (In charge of Network Business), Fujitsu Limited:
“The Open RAN-based ecosystem offers many exciting possibilities and this latest milestone with KDDI and Samsung demonstrates the innovative potential of next-generation mobile services with Massive MIMO Units. Fujitsu will continue to enhance this ecosystem, with the goal of providing advanced mobile services and contributing to the sustainable growth of our society.”
The companies will continue to strengthen virtualized and Open RAN leadership in this space, bringing additional value to customers and enterprises with 5G SA.
Addendum: As of December 31, 2021 there were only 21 known 5G SA eMBB networks commercially deployed.
5G SA eMBB Network
Rain (South Africa)
Launched in 2020
China Mobile Hong Kong
Launched in 2021
Telefónica O2 (Germany)
TPG Telecom (Australia)
SOURCE: Dave Bolan, Dell’Oro Group.
Samsung Electronics wins $6.6B wireless network equipment order from Verizon; Galaxy Book Flex 5G
Mobile Core Network (MCN) growth to slow due to slow roll-out of 5G SA networks
Nokia deploys shared 5G RAN (MORAN) with SoftBank and KDDI in Japan
Nokia today announced that it has been selected by Japanese mobile operators, SoftBank Corp. and KDDI as one of the vendors to deploy Japan’s shared RAN. This deployment will deliver 5G services to both SoftBank and KDDI subscribers in the country. Nokia will install a Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN) [1.], which will allow both companies to share the RAN while keeping core networks separate. Network sharing helps support efficient RAN deployments as base station sites and infrastructure (equipment) are shared.
Note 1. In MORAN everything in the RAN (antenna, tower, site, power) except the radios are shared between two or more network operators.
The two Japanese telcos announced plans to deploy a shared network, or a Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN), in June, using equipment from Ericsson and other vendors. We now know that Nokia is one of those other vendors. Ericsson equipment supports network sharing using both TDD (Time Division Duplex) and FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) as well as 4G/LTE and 5G New Radio (NR). The solution consists of Ericsson Radio System products such as RAN Compute (base band) , radio and transport – with the powerful system on a chip, Ericsson Silicon, bringing innovative various solutions such as Ericsson Spectrum Sharing and Ericsson Uplink Booster.
KDDI and SoftBank will particularly focus on quickly building robust 5G network leveraging Ericsson Radio System products and solutions for multiple-bands. Ericsson’s future-proof network-sharing solution will significantly contribute to their nationwide network deployment of 5G and beyond. Ericsson and the service providers have completed verifications and started to deploy the solution commercially.
Under this contract, Nokia will supply its latest AirScale products including baseband and radio platforms. Nokia’s MORAN is triple mode and covers LTE, 5G as well as Dynamic Spectrum Sharing. In particular, Nokia will provide its new generation of ReefShark System-on-Chip based plug-in cards to increase the capacity of the AirScale baseband. The new ReefShark-powered plug-in cards are easily installed and simplify the upgrade and extended operation of all AirScale deployments. They also deliver up to eight times more throughput compared to previous generations. Nokia’s modular AirScale baseband will enable SoftBank and KDDI to scale capacity flexibly and efficiently and as their 5G business evolves.
MORAN is a way for mobile operators to share radio access network infrastructure, reduce their costs, expand the coverage of their networks and achieve an efficient and effective roll-out of new technologies. The RAN uses dedicated radio frequencies assigned to each service provider ensuring they maintain independent control of their resources. Nokia supports a range of network sharing solutions suiting all operating scenarios. Nokia’s flexible MORAN solution can also be utilized by mobile operators and enterprises for private networks, as well as public networks or industrial campuses.
MORAN should help Softbank and KDDI roll out 5G faster and cheaper. Costs will decrease and subscriber coverage will be quicker. They are also working together on a shared rural coverage project announced 18 months ago, that will see them share base station assets to build out 5G more quickly in rural areas.
Tomohiro Sekiwa, Senior Vice President and CNO, SoftBank, said: “In order to deliver the best 5G experience to customers nationwide as quickly as possible, SoftBank is working with KDDI to develop a shared 5G network. In this effort, a Multi-Operator Radio Access Network is a key technology that will bring various efficiencies and we look forward to the high performance of Nokia’s products in this regard.”
Tatsuo Sato, Vice President and Managing Officer, Technology Planning, KDDI, said: “We are pleased to work closely with both Nokia and SoftBank to accelerate 5G network deployment across Japan. With this Multi-Operator Radio Access Network, we anticipate delivering the superior unique experiences of 5G to customers faster.”
Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “Nokia has been at the forefront of network sharing around the world since the deployment of the world’s first commercial shared network. We have a long-standing partnership with both SoftBank and KDDI and are excited to work collaboratively with them on this project. Our latest AirScale solutions will be utilized, including the new baseband plug-in cards to add capacity where it is needed and deliver best-in-class 5G connectivity to their customers.”
It will be interesting to see the impact that this network gear sharing deal has on SoftBank and KDDI’s respective 5G businesses in the coming months and years.
Activate massive 5G capacity with Nokia AirScale
AirScale baseband | Nokia
AirScale Active Antennas | Nokia
AirScale Radio | Nokia
Network Infrastructure Sharing and the MORAN Concept:
Samsung vRAN to power KDDI 5G network in Japan
Samsung will deploy its cloud-native, fully virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) in KDDI’s 5G network, following the successful completion of a 5G Standalone (SA) call using Samsung’s vRAN and another vendor’s 5G Massive MIMO radios. Among other capabilities, virtualized networks will enable 5G network slicing. Samsung and KDDI will begin trials in Q1 of 2022, and start commercial deployment in the second half of 2022.
“We are delighted to extend our collaboration with Samsung and to become the first operator in Japan to use their 5G vRAN solutions, which are currently delivering superior performance in commercial networks,” said Kazuyuki Yoshimura, Chief Technology Officer of KDDI. “We believe in the power of virtualization, and this collaboration serves as a meaningful catalyst for driving the next phase of 5G innovation, and advancing our networks to offer best-in-class 5G services.”
With its latest 5G vRAN technology, Samsung brings a range of improvements to KDDI’s network. By replacing dedicated baseband hardware with software elements, vRAN offers more deployment flexibility, greater scalability and improved resource efficiency in network operation. With its cloud-native, container-based architecture, Samsung’s vRAN also simplifies end-to-end network management through automation, allowing operators to quickly introduce new services with minimal impact on deployment.
“With commercially-proven performance and reliability, our vRAN is an attractive technology option for operators — from both the deployment and operational perspectives,” said Woojune Kim, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Sales & Marketing, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics.
“We are excited to mark another milestone with KDDI, following previous network collaborations that include the commercialization of 5G in 2020, and the rollout of 700MHz 5G in 2021. We look forward to our ongoing work with KDDI to bring new 5G innovations to their customers.”
Virtualized networks will play a key role in supporting KDDI’s pursuit of new 5G use cases and next-generation capabilities. Last year, Samsung and KDDI demonstrated how 5G end-to-end network slicing could play a key role for mobile operators by enabling the creation of multiple virtual networks within a single physical network infrastructure.
Samsung has been at the forefront of vRAN leadership around the world, unveiling its fully virtualized 5G RAN in 2020, followed by successful commercialization with a Tier 1 operator in the U.S. In June 2021, the company was selected by a major European operator to bring vRAN to the U.K.
Samsung recently demonstrated its vRAN capability to support Massive MIMO radios on mid-band, reaching multi-gigabit speeds. The company also teamed with a Tier 1 U.S. operator to complete an end-to-end 5G vRAN trial over C-Band in a live network environment, demonstrating vRAN performance equal to that of traditional hardware-based equipment.
SpaceX and KDDI to test Satellite Internet in Japan
KDDI, Japan’s second-largest mobile provider, has emerged as one of SpaceX’s partners in rolling out high-speed wireless Internet coverage via satellites, according to Nikkei Asia. It’s all part of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s goal of connecting the entire world to the internet via satellites.
SpaceX has launched hundreds of Starlink telecommunications satellites with the goal of fully starting services in Japan by the end of the year. KDDI and SpaceX will begin a network proving test in Japan this month, and coverage is expected to be commercially available next year.
The two companies will start by offering internet service to customers living in mountainous regions and islands for no additional charge. The satellite network will also serve as backup in case terrestrial telecom lines are disrupted during natural disasters or blackouts.
Once Satellite Internet service coverage increases, Starlink could field a network for smart devices, which would be used for data collection in sparsely populated places or for drone operation in otherwise hard-to-access areas.
The transmission of visuals and other large pieces of data will allow officials to remotely monitor volcanic eruptions or floods or inspect bridges and electrical towers.
For farmers, Starlink will allow them to monitor weather and crop conditions so they are better informed of when to fertilize or harvest.
Terrestrial telecom infrastructure involves a web of base stations, switching stations, fiber optic cables and backbone networks. Starlink will connect data transmissions between phones and base stations to backbone networks via satellites.
The new service is expected to provide a low-cost communications infrastructure for low-population areas because it renders fiber optic cables unnecessary. KDDI will add satellite communication antennas to base stations and install a new SpaceX transmission station at the Yamaguchi Satellite Communication Center.
Japan still has a few areas with incomplete telecom networks. At the end of March, about 9,900 people lived in locations with no mobile coverage. Even in areas with wireless coverage, it is often hard to connect with devices on islands.
KDDI covers over 90% of the population with 4G communication, but so-called platinum frequency band only extends over 60% of the land area.
A Starlink satellite can exchange signals across more than 1,000 km with low latency. The satellites orbit at lower altitudes than conventional communication satellites, which hover about 36,000 km above ground. The lower altitudes are said to enable faster communication compared to normal satellite services.
Such satellite networks services need approval from Japan’s communications ministry before operations can begin. The ministry amended rules in August that opened the doors to SpaceX launching internet services in Japan. Both SpaceX and KDDI plan to obtain licenses by the end of the year.
Back when KDDI has been strong in satellite control signals ever since the company was known as Kokusai Denshin Denwa. The carrier has collaborated with SpaceX on the technological front since last year.
This current partnership entails SpaceX providing the satellites while KDDI takes care of terrestrial telecom connections.
Musk mentioned “two quite significant partnerships with major country telcos” in June during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Although Musk did not disclose the companies’ names, it turns out that KDDI is one of them.
SpaceX will use the service rollout in Japan, where customers expect high-quality connections, as the model for a global network.
SpaceX has been launching Starlink satellites at a rapid pace. About 400 units alone were sent into space in 12-month period starting May 2019, according to NASA. More than 1,500 of the satellites are believed to be currently in orbit.
Musk’s company will continue launching satellites until it forms a constellation of over 10,000 units. There are over 3 billion people worldwide without internet access. The expansion of services would enable the global spread of digitalization.
A satellite network will be essential for making sixth generation communication a feasible reality. Driverless vehicles and similar applications will use 6G. To prevent latencies and disruptions in service, terrestrial base stations will need to work together with satellites and aerial communication drones.
Other players are jumping into the satellite telecom business. Amazon.com is spending $10 billion to create a network of over 3,000 satellites. Japanese counterpart Rakuten Group has partnered with a U.S. startup with the goal of launching satellite-powered mobile services in the next fiscal year.
NTT, Japan’s leading telecom group, has teamed with Sky Perfect JSAT Holdings on developing what are essentially data processing centers in space. Those services are expected to go live in 2026.