NTT DoCoMo achieves multi-vendor 4G/5G RAN using O-RAN specifications

NTT DoCoMo has announced that it has  achieved multi-vendor interoperability across a variety of 4G and pre-standard 5G base station equipment from Fujitsu, NEC and Nokia.   Equipment from those vendors supports the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) Alliance specifications, which are NOT standards as claimed in DoCoMo’s press release.  This is believed to be the world’s first realization of this level of multi-vendor interoperability in 4G and 5G base station equipment conforming to O-RAN specifications.

Up until now, cellular telcos (cellcos) have been locked into single cellular base station vendor contracts when deploying their radio access networks (RANs). Despite ITU-R standardization and 3GPP specifications, operators have not been able to use one vendor’s baseband gear with another’s radio equipment. Working across different 4G and 5G vendor systems has been similarly problematic if not impossible. Critics say this interoperability dilemma has led to “vendor lock-in” and strengthened a small number of giant RAN vendors, namely Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia.

The Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) Alliance wants to change that.  It is an operator led industry group working to create more open and intelligent next generation radio access networks, including 5G networks. The O-RAN specifications include RAN fronthaul and X2 profiles. There are 21 network operator members shown on the O-RAN Alliance member list, which includes NTT DoCoMo, AT&T, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, China Mobile, China Telecom and other tier 1 operators.

RAN fronthaul describes the connectivity between remote base stations and centralized  cell units, enabling multiple remote units to be serviced by a single central baseband unit using open hardware specs. Ultimately,  radio heads and baseband units may be mixed and matched to create a fully multi-vendor RAN.

The ability to deploy and interconnect base station equipment from different vendors will make it possible to select the equipment most suitable for deployment in any given environment, such as base stations offering broad coverage in rural areas or small base stations that can be deployed in urban areas where space is limited. This will in turn allow more rapid and flexible expansion of 5G coverage.

DoCoMo will deploy the equipment in the pre-commercial 5G service it plans to launch on September 20, 2019 in Japan.  Concurrent with the pre-commercial launch of its 5G services, DoCoMo will expand 5G coverage by combining 5G networks with existing 4G networks using equipment from diverse vendors. The signal transmission specifications that will enable this follows lengthy discussions within the O-RAN Alliance, which DoCoMo is chairing.

4G and 5G multi-vendor interoperability:

Image of 4G and 5G multi-vendor interoperability

O-RAN fronthaul interface specifications provide a foundation for interoperability between centralized units and remote units of 5G remote-installed base stations manufactured by diverse partners. With remote-installed base stations, centralization of the baseband processing will bring the following benefits:

  • Improved communication quality through coordination of multiple remote units
  • Pooling of resources through the aggregation of hardware
  • Minimization of equipment footprint, leading to a reduction in space and costs.

In addition, through the provision of only radio processing, the remote unit can be further downsized, making it possible to install in a variety of locations that would previously have not been viable, such as small buildings or mountainous areas.

The O-RAN X2 profile specifications provide a foundation for interoperability between 4G base stations and 5G base stations manufactured by diverse partners in 5G non-standalone (5G NSA) networks by taking 3GPP X2 interface specifications and specifying details for their usage. 3GPP Release 15 based 5G NR-NSA networks connect devices using both 4G and 5G technologies. The connection of 4G and 5G base stations makes it possible to combine the high-speed, low-latency data communications delivered by 5G technology with the comprehensive coverage of 4G networks.

Going forward, DoCoMo will continue to refine and develop its cutting-edge base station communication technology, aiming to expand the provision of stable 5G coverage.

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Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC):

O-RAN has announced the Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC) – an initiative led by China Mobile and Reliance Jio along with participation from China Telecom, China Unicom, Intel, Radisys, Airspan, Baicells, CertusNet, Mavenir, Lenovo, Ruijie Network, Inspur, Samsung Electronics, Sylincom, WindRiver, ArrayComm, and Chengdu NTS.

The above named companies are collaborating on multi-vendor interoperability and validation activities for O-RAN compliant 5G access infrastructure. The initial focus is to ensure RAN components from multiple vendors support standard and open interfaces and can interoperate in accordance with O-RAN test specifications.

“China Mobile will initiate an OTIC in Beijing, China, which should provide the common platform for solutions to be operationally ready to enable end-to-end interoperability and deployment in scale; as well as to be hardened for reliability, performance, scalability, and security that operator networks require,” said Dr. Li Zhengmao, EVP of China Mobile.

“Jio is creating an OTIC to accelerate the telecom industry transformation by driving ready-for-commercialisation products and solutions,” said Mathew Oommen, President, Reliance Jio.

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Heavy Reading Comments:

“It is pretty significant for O-RAN because DoCoMo is a genuinely leading operator, a rainmaker in these things,” says Gabriel Brown, a principal analyst with Heavy Reading. “They have said this will conform with O-RAN specifications in what looks like the production 4G and 5G network.”

“One of the criticisms of the 5G RAN was about using the same 4G vendor, but the implication here is that you could do multivendor,” said Brown, pointing to NTT DoCoMo’s statements about the O-RAN Alliance’s X2 specifications. “What they don’t appear to be saying is that they have different baseband vendors for 4G and 5G, but they are saying they can do it. There is no question at all this is a big statement about O-RAN.”

NTT DoCoMo’s update is not a complete surprise, he says, because the operator had already been in trials with Fujitsu, NEC and Nokia. Today’s move aligns that model with the O-RAN specifications at an important moment. “Whatever they are doing has to be rock solid because the Rugby World Cup is coming in a couple of weeks,” says Brown. “That is a warm-up for the 2020 Olympics in terms of international attention on Japanese networks and all operators will be launching a limited 5G service.”

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Telco Testimonials and Deployment Plans for O-RAN:

“ The O-RAN Alliance was created to accelerate the delivery of products that support a common, open architecture and standardized interfaces that we, as operators, view as the foundation of our next-generation wireless infrastructure, while ensuring a broad community of suppliers driven by innovation and open market competition. ” — Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Research and Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom “ Our industry is approaching an inflection point, where increasing infrastructure virtualization will combine with embedded intelligence to deliver more agile services and advanced capabilities to our customers. The O-RAN Alliance is at the forefront of defining the next generation RAN architecture for this transformation. ” — Andre Fuetsch, CTO and President AT&T Labs.

AT&T is a key proponent of O-RAN adoption.  An AT&T employee, who presented on O-RAN at ONF Connect 2019, said the company is seriously evaluating adopting the Alliance’s specifications for 5G deployments sometime in 2020.  AT&T has said that it foresees that it can bring the “whitebox” environment to the RAN by adopting open hardware specifications.

 

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References:

https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/info/media_center/pr/2019/0918_00.html

https://www.o-ran.org/membership

https://www.o-ran.org/specifications

https://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/japans-ntt-docomo-goes-for-gold-wth-multivendor-5g-plans/d/d-id/754206

http://the-mobile-network.com/2019/09/o-ran-scores-twice-as-ntt-docomo-reveals-commercial-multi-vendor-deployment/

http://the-mobile-network.com/2019/03/taking-the-open-ran-commercial/

NEC Demo’s Face Recognition Using MEC to NTT DOCOMO 5G Open Lab

NEC has completed a proof-of-concept demonstration of a 5G-based facial recognition system that can be temporarily deployed at event venues without the need for new cable installation.  The prototype system was tested at NTT Docomo’s 5G Open Lab in Okinawa as part of the operator’s 5G Open Partner Program, which seeks to encourage the creation of new 5G use cases.  The system utilizes 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC) technologies to enable instant face recognition using mobile networks.

In order to optimize bandwidth, monitoring cameras can stream low definition images when people are not detected, and high definition images when certain behaviors are detected.  The demo system consists of NEC’s face recognition AI engine NeoFace, Image Analysis and Behavior Detection System and Context-aware Service Controller solutions. They are installed on MEC servers and connected through a virtualized evolved packet core.

“NEC will continue to develop and offer a variety of solutions as a top vendor of domestic mobile core networks in the 5G era and to contribute to the expansion of the DOCOMO 5G Open Partner Program, while taking advantage of our experience and knowhow,” NEC GM for network solutions Kazuhiro Tagawa said.

Face Recognition

This announcement includes part of the results of a research project “Research and development for the achievement of a fifth-generation mobile communication system – Research and development of high-speed and low-power consumption wireless access technology utilizing a super multi element antenna with high-frequency and large bandwidth” commissioned by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The NTT DOCOMO 5G Open Lab OKINAWA provides charge free technical verification environments, including 5G base stations, for companies and groups participating in the DOCOMO 5G Open Partner Program. The lab aims at creation of new use cases for 5G, promotion of local industries and resolution of social issues in Okinawa. NEC has provided 5G base stations utilizing 4.5 GHz frequency band to this lab.

References:

https://www.acnnewswire.com/press-release/english/49108/

https://www.nec.com/en/global/solutions/safety/face_recognition/index.html

NEC Contact:  Seiichiro Toda s-toda@cj.jp.nec.com +81-3-3798-6511

5G Trials in Singapore, Guam and Hong Kong

Nokia and StarHub complete “5G” New Radio pilot in Singapore

Singapore network operator StarHub and Nokia have conducted what they claim was the first outdoor live network demonstration of “5G” New Radio (NR) on the 3.5GHz frequency band in the Asian city-state.

The companies said two use cases were demonstrated to staff, industry partners and enterprise customers over ‘live’ Nokia 5G cells and core network technology at StarHub’s headquarters in Singapore.

The first use case demonstration for industrial applications replicated a manufacturing environment, demonstrating how businesses can use 5G-enabled video analytics to enhance efficiency and reduce production errors.

The use case for consumers demonstrated how sports fans can use a 5G-enabled virtual reality headsets to have immersive video experience of “live” sports events.

The trial was conducted in a 5G non-standalone network architecture, with Nokia 5G radio technology interworking with StarHub’s 4G core network.

Nokia deployed AirScale Radio Access technology with 5G NR 3GPP-compliant software and the Nokia AirFrame data center solution.

“As 5G inches closer, we are intensifying trials to identify new business opportunities and chart our network transformation roadmap to meet the demands of our customers,” said Chong Siew Loong, chief technology officer of StarHub.

“This successful pilot with Nokia showcases the readiness and possibilities of 5G to enhance consumer services and boost efficiencies for enterprises. It aligns with StarHub’s goal to support and accelerate Smart Nation initiatives in Singapore.”

https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/11/27/1657090/0/en/Nokia-and-StarHub-complete-5G-New-Radio-pilot-in-Singapore.html

https://www.telecomasia.net/content/starhub-nokia-trial-5g-35ghz-band

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NTT Docomo to establish 5G test lab in Guam

The facility, Docomo’s first overseas verification center, will allow Docomo’s Program partners to connect devices and services free of charge to the lab’s 5G base and mobile stations and related equipment.

The test environment will subsequently be extended to outdoor locations to allow verification testing in real-world outdoor environments.

The facility’s location in Guam will allow for testing according to US-market technical and regulatory conditions.

With the initiative, Docomo aims to allow for prompt, flexible and accurate verification of equipment, systems and technologies for applications such as drones and autonomous vehicles.

Docomo’s 5G Open Partner Program is designed to provide global businesses and organizations with the latest 5G information, test environments and opportunities for partner workshops. The partner program currently has more than 1,900 members.

Docomo already operates 5G open labs in Seoul, South Korea and Osaka, Japan.  The telco plans to open a third domestic lab in Okinawa, Japan next month.

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DOCOMO PACIFIC

A wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan telecommunications giant, NTT DOCOMO, DOCOMO PACIFIC was originally a merger of Guamcell Communications and HafaTel prior to acquisition in December 2006 by NTT DOCOMO. This acquisition allowed NTT DOCOMO the opportunity to share its world-leading technology with the region as evidenced by significant investments and upgrades in DOCOMO PACIFIC. In October 2008, DOCOMO PACIFIC was first on Guam to introduce the fastest and only 3.5G network. In November 2011, DOCOMO PACIFIC launched 4G HSPA+ service on Guam followed by the launch of advanced 4G LTE service in October 2012.

On 22 May 2013, DOCOMO PACIFIC officially merged with MCV Broadband and is now Guam and the CNMI’s leading provider of telecommunications and entertainment services. With combined offerings to include the latest mobile services, television, internet and telephone services in the region, DOCOMO PACIFIC continues to enhance the diversified range of services available to its customers.

https://www.telecomasia.net/content/docomo-establish-5g-test-lab-guam

https://www.docomopacific.com/about-us

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3HK completes Hong Kong’s first outdoor 5G trial

3 Hong Kong has revealed it has completed of 5G outdoor network trials in the 3.5-GHz and 28-GHz spectrum bands.

The company said it believes it was the first mobile operator in Hong Kong to complete a live outdoor 5G trial broadcast. The test was conducted at a trial cell site in Causeway Bay.

3 Hong Kong received an indoor 5G test permit for the 3.5-GHz band in August 2017, and completed a number of initial trials by the end of that year. In May, the company secured a temporary permit to conduct 5G trials in the 26-GHz and 28-GHz millimeter wave bands.

Another temporary permit for outdoor and indoor trials in the 3.5-GHz band was granted in June, and the company achieved 2Gbps network speeds during an earlier trial using 100MHz of spectrum in this band.

3 Hong Kong said the test results indicate that 3.5-GHz band coverage – when used in conjunction with Massive MIMO, can be comparable to the coverage afforded over LTE using the 1800-MHz band.

The design of 5G networks will use a combination of mid-band spectrum such as 3.5-GHz for a wider coverage area, and millimeter wave spectrum for high speeds

“3 Hong Kong took the initiative to carry out end-to-end trials in various 5G bands in preparation for a new era of mobile communications,” commented Kenny Koo, CEO of 3 Hong Kong’s parent company Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings.

“We welcome the government’s decision to allow various of its premises to accommodate 5G base stations, and we hope the application and approval processes can be simplified and accelerated to help Hong Kong’s 5G development.”

First published in Computerworld Hong Kong

 

 

NTT DoCoMo achieves 28GHz wireless data transmission in ultrahigh mobility environment

NTT DoCoMo says it has achieved what is believed to be the world’s first successful 28 GHz wireless data transmission between a 5G base station and a 5G mobile station in 5G field trials using a car moving at 305 KMH or about 189 MPH. The trials were conducted last month at the Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI) using 700 megahertz of spectrum. They also included live wireless relay of 4K high-frame rate video via uplink from a 5G mobile station moving at 200 km/h, according to DoCoMo.

The speeds in the field trials are designed to be similar to speeds of high-speed railways, so it’s understandable the operator wants to make sure it works, including handoffs, at these kinds of speeds.

Working with NEC and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), DoCoMo said the trials also achieved what are believed to be the world’s first successful 1.1 Gbps ultrahigh-speed data transmission via downlink to a 5G mobile station moving at 293 km/h. It also conducted a fast handover during communication between 5G base stations and a 5G mobile station moving at 290 KMH.

DoCoMo noted that the “world’s first” achievements are according to DoCoMo research as of April 23, 2018. Japan’s largest wireless network operator and its partners used beamforming and beam tracking to address propagation challenges in the 28 GHz band. The 5G base stations used massive-element antenna (96 elements, up to two beams), and the mobile station had massive-element antenna (64 elements, up to two beams). Sony Business Solutions provided a 4K camera for high-frame rate video, and DoCoMo’s own Dandelion racing manager provided a trial car and operated the car on the test course.

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DoCoMo’s 5G R&D objectives and “Phantom Cell” architecture:

NTT DOCOMO’s 5G related research and development will enable a wide range of capabilities such as super high data rate communications of over 10Gbps, lower latency, and simultaneous connection of a large number of terminals in order to support the future spread of M2M communications and internet of things (IoT), etc.

DOCOMO is advocating the concept of Phantom Cell architecture, which consists of a combination of a small cell using a higher frequency band and broader bandwidth and a macro cell using a conventional lower frequency band. For 5G, DOCOMO is making research and development efforts with a focus on the development of technologies that enable efficient transmission in higher frequency bands such as the beamforming technology leveraging a large array of antenna elements (Massive MIMO) as well as technologies for efficient transmission in lower frequency bands.
Toward the goal of 5G service rollout, various mobile communication technologies and schemes need to be tested, including low-latency transmission methods that meet the needs of M2M and other various applications. To this end, DOCOMO is conducting experimental trials in collaboration with world-leading vendors to confirm the feasibility of a wide range of mobile communication technologies, centering on the concepts that DOCOMO advocates.

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DoCoMo is preparing to show off its 5G technology for the Olympics in 2020.  Intel revealed earlier this year that it is collaborating with DoCoMo to develop 5G applications, like 360-degree 8K-video streams for highly immersive watching of the games.

Sports viewing

Sports viewing: Choosing any of video streams from numerous small cameras in the venue, you can enjoy vivid, powerful images from the players’ viewpoints over an omni-directional three dimensional screen.

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Earlier this year, DoCoMo completed a trial with Huawei and Tobu Railway at Tokyo Skytree Town, the commercial center in the Sumida District of Tokyo that is the home of the iconic 634-meter high television broadcasting tower and landmark. The trial focused on delivering consistent 5G system performance for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) applications within the complex, and was used to research radio propagation characteristics and other technical conditions for the 28 GHz band and other candidate spectrum within congested environments.

References:

https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/info/media_center/pr/2018/0509_00.html

https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/corporate/technology/rd/tech/5g/

https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/corporate/technology/rd/tech/5g/5g_trial/index.html

https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/japan-s-docomo-claims-5g-first-field-trial-involving-28-ghz-and-ultra-high-mobility

 

Huawei and NTT Docomo “5G” mmWave Field Trial in Tokyo

Huawei is highlighting a Tokyo, Japan trial in which the Chinese telecom/IT vendor achieved “5G” like download speeds of 4.52 gigabits per second over ~ three-quarters of a mile using 28 GHz millimeter-wave wireless technology.  The trial took place in downtown Tokyo, where a base station working over 28GHz frequency was located at Tokyo Skytree’s viewing deck, 340m above the city.

Working with Japan’s NTT Docomo, Huawei said it was confident of launching a commercial 5G rollout by 2020 (NOTE: the IMT 2020 set of 5G standards are to be finalized by year end 2020).

“The high-speed and long distance support is one of important technical challenges for 5G mmWave conditions. This successful long distance live-demo on a 5G mmWave is a groundbreaking achievement in our joint effort with NTT DOCOMO to build a fundamental 5G commercial environment. This success makes us more confident in realizing the goal of commercializing 5G by 2020,” said Gan Bin, vice president of Huawei’s 5G product line.

Huawei utilized its 5G base station for the test, which supports Massive MIMO and beam forming technologies. Huawei also provided the 5G core network and the 5G mm wave test user equipment.

Huawei anticipates conducting further testing at the world’s biggest 5G testing site in Beijing’s Huairou District.

The test comes amid a flurry of 5G testing and trials around the world.  For example, BT and Nokia announced plans for live “5G” tests in the UK earlier this month.

References:

http://www.huawei.com/en/news/2017/12/NTT-DOCOMO-5G-mmWave-Field-Trial-Tokyo

https://www.totaltele.com/498823/5G-testing-spurs-Huawei-to-deliver-5G-by-2020

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