SoftBank announced that it has deployed a 5G Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) site in the Kanto region of Japan. The multi-national conglomerate said it has started the nationwide deployment of MEC servers in Japan this month (May 2022). SoftBank claims its 5G MEC delivers a low-latency and secure service experience by using its 5G SA core network with compute servers at the network’s edge. The 5G MEC offering now makes it possible for customers to experience high-speed services through the deployment of applications close to user devices within the 5G SA network, which significantly reduces server access times.
SoftBank’s 5G MEC platform provides a Kubernetes-based container environment [1.] which is a de facto platform for application development. From physical infrastructure set-up to application deployment and distribution, 5G MEC sites are automated. Such features make applications on the 5G MEC platform more fault-tolerant, and they also enable faster service rollout with reduced complexity, improving a variety of industry services such as emergency notifications, in-building IoT-based network deployments, factory automation, multi-user network gaming and automated driving, among others.
Note 1. Kubernetes is a portable, extensible, open source platform for managing containerized workloads and services, that facilitates both declarative configuration and automation.
“This deployment of 5G MEC is a major milestone for SoftBank. Its compatibility with SRv6 MUP and network slicing, along with its automation of operation features, make it unique across the industry. With our partners, we’ll develop a multi-industry ecosystem to become a complete digital platform provider by harnessing the capabilities of our 5G MEC solution,” said Keiichi Makizono, SoftBank Corp. Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO).
Comments from partners supporting Softbank’s 5G MEC are as follows:
“SoftBank is committed to enabling the digital transformation of companies and organizations across all sectors, and we are honored to have been selected as a cloud partner in this aim. We share with SoftBank a vision where modern applications must integrate seamlessly with cloud operations to create exceptional end user experiences. We look forward to further enabling SoftBank to execute on this vision, for their cloud native customers’ use cases in and beyond 5G,” said Ankur Singla, SVP, Security & Distributed Cloud Product Group, F5. [F5 is a strategic partner for SoftBank that has worked jointly on strategic initiatives including SRv6 and 5G MEC, commented on 5G MEC].
“Corezero is excited to join SoftBank’s 5G MEC initiative. Corezero enables Logging-as-a-Service. Our flagship product FFWD is a real-time observability system built using cutting edge software to achieve true Ingest-Query-Separation, and Compute-Storage-Separation: an architecture type that best serves the modern high-volume log flows and query profiles in highly distributed cloud environments. We are looking forward to working with SoftBank to provide Logging-as-a-Service (LaaS) starting from their 5G MEC enhanced with low-cost programmability,” said Yee Soon, CEO, Corezero.
“Niantic has been working with SoftBank on promotions for our AR/location-based game titles, as well as network optimization at our live events, etc. We believe that SoftBank’s nationwide deployment of 5G MEC will open up new possibilities not only for our game titles but also for developers and creators who use Niantic Lightship ARDK, which will lead to the creation of an innovative AR experience from Japan to the world in the future,” said Setsuto Murai, President, Niantic Japan.
“Vantiq is excited to be part of SoftBank’s 5G MEC program, which is bringing significant value to the communications industry. The combination of SoftBank’s Digital Platform, which provides the necessary edge-computing infrastructure, and Vantiq’s real-time distributed processing capabilities, will help drive market innovation and disruption through the creation of mission-critical, ultra low-latency business applications,” said Marty Sprinzen, CEO, Vantiq.
“We are very excited about the Kubernetes (k8) container technology-based SoftBank 5G MEC roll out. MIXI is actively utilizing the k8-based container platform for future microservice based application development. By utilizing 5G MEC distributed all over Japan with a high affinity with mobile networking, we aim for further innovation in the sports entertainment area along with other futuristic applications,” said Junpei Yoshino, Chief General Manager, Development Operations, mixi, Inc.
“Yahoo! JAPAN is proactively trying to adopt new technologies to provide safe, secure, and comfortable services to a wide range of customers. Therefore, we are paying close attention to the expansion of SoftBank 5G MEC, which will enhance the possibility of our services by providing CSP infrastructure closer to our customers’ mobile devices with higher network reliability, significantly reduced processing speed, and ease of deployment through container infrastructure. We also expect MEC sites distributed around the world to be a powerful advantage when we, the content service providers, expand our business all over the world. We have high expectations for SoftBank to lead this important platform,” said Masahiko Kokubo, Director, EVP, Managing Corporate Officer, CTO, Yahoo Japan Corporation.
“The JCV face recognition platform is widely adopted at thousands of retail shops and entertainment venues. To provide customers with highly accurate AR experiences using spatial image recognition at commercial facilities and stadiums Real-time computing processing using SoftBank’s upcoming 5G MEC will enable us to provide our customers with increased accuracy and ultra-low latency. We are confident that, with SoftBank 5G MEC, this will fuel the creation of a metaverse platform linking online and offline,” said Andrew Schwabecher, CEO of Japan Computer Vision Corp.
“We are very much excited about SoftBank’s 5G MEC deployment which will play a vital role in realizing distributed computing necessary for advanced digital society. Using SRv6 for networking will make SoftBank’s 5G MEC even more optimal and easy to deploy at remote locations. By utilizing our regional Internet eXchanges (IX), BBIX with its valued partners will deliver the optimal network platform for the Digital Twin [2.] era,” said Hidetoshi Ikeda, Representative Director, President & CEO, BBIX, Inc.
- Note 2. Digital twin is a technology that collects information in real space via IoT, etc. and reproduces real space in cyber space based on the transmitted data.
- Other Notes:
- In October 2021, SoftBank announced that it had started to offer 5G Standalone (SA) network services. With this new launch, SoftBank claimed to be the first carrier in Japan to offer 5G SA commercial services. At that time, the company said that the most important features of 5G SA networks are their ability to deliver network slicing and Private 5G networks, which are customized networks tailored to individual enterprise needs, and other connectivity features based on advanced technologies.
- Softbank had initially launched commercial 5G services in Japan through NSA architecture in March 2020.
- In April 2021, Softbank launched Japan’s first 5G global roaming service.
- According to Statistica, Softbank had a 20.8% share (# 3) of Japan’s mobile subscribers in 2021. NTT DoComo led with a 37% market share, while KDDI was in second place with a 27.2% market share.
- Softbank’s history is here.
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.
Network Infrastructure Sharing and the MORAN Concept:
Greg Wyler, the entrepreneur and CEO of satellite internet company OneWeb, has won the Fierce Wireless “Most Powerful Person In Telecom” tournament for 2017, just edging past T-Mobile CEO John Legere during this weekend’s final matchup and beating other industry notables like Ericsson’s Borje Ekholm, Apple’s Tim Cook and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam.
This past Sunday afternoon, Legere urged his almost 5 million Twitter followers to vote for OneWeb’s Wyler instead of himself:
Join me in voting for Greg as the Most Powerful Person in Wireless! We have until tomorrow morning to put Greg_Wyler (and his mission) on top, where he belongs! #IvoteGreghttps://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/john-legere-vs-greg-wyler-vote-for-most-powerful-person-u-s-telecom-industry-2017 …“This has been an amazing public statement about the need for global connectivity. Our mission is to enable affordable access for the world’s unconnected. While we still have a lot of work to do, with the support of partners, friends, governments, and customers, I know we will get there,” Wyler said in a statement issued shortly before voting ended on Tuesday morning.
OneWeb appears to have recently received another vote of confidence from Japan’s SoftBank. According to a Wall Street Journal report, SoftBank has increased its investment in OneWeb by another $500 million, bringing its total to $1.5 billion.
Wyler also told the WSJ that the company’s initial fleet of more than 700 low-altitude satellites is “generally on schedule” for launches beginning in 2018. The company plans to start offering service in Alaska by 2019 and expanding worldwide by the end of 2020, Wyler told the Journal. Further, he said that OneWeb plans to deploy 900 second-generation, higher-orbiting satellites by the mid-2020s, which he said would allow the company to offer speeds of 2.5 Gbps.
Mr. Wyler’s project has final approval from the Federal Communications Commission to turn on domestic service within two years, barring major technical or manufacturing problems. The approval also is contingent on other conditions.
According to Mr. Wyler, his team also is “trying to lead the charge” in reducing orbital debris stemming from potential satellite collisions or failures. OneWeb’s satellites, weighing hundreds of pounds and expected to cost less than $1 million apiece, are designed to be “as high or higher in quality and reliability” than much larger models costing $150 million or more, he said.
An early financial backer of some of the largest internet companies on both sides of the Pacific, SoftBank continues to seek synergies with mobile-phone businesses and the portfolio of assorted technology companies it has assembled over the years. SoftBank also has created the world’s biggest tech investment fund, worth nearly $100 billion. The Vision Fund has been roiling the venture community with its sheer scale, lifting valuations and helping entrepreneurs bypass usual fundraising rounds.
Since its official launch in May with the backing of investors such as Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, the fund has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in companies that SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son believes will corner key technologies in a future of smarter, interconnected, and automated devices. OneWeb’s satellites are geared to help serve as the backbone for those applications, Mr. Son has said.
SoftBank, which has a 40% stake in OneWeb based on a prior investment, walked away from merger talks between its U.S. wireless carrierSprint Corp. and rival T-Mobile US Inc., unwilling to relinquish control as the top shareholder of a spectrum Mr. Son believes will be valuable as everyday objects from cars to refrigerators increasingly communicate with one another.
Mr. Wyler, for his part, has long advocated the advantages of combining satellites circling the earth at different altitudes, arguing such synergies dramatically increase capacity and efficiencies. But unlike Mr. Musk’s concept, he doesn’t favor laser links between satellites on the grounds that such add-ons unduly increase weight and complexity.
According to Fierce’s readership, Wyler is not only the industry’s top rising starfor 2017, he’s also the industry’s most powerful person. And that comes after Softbank reportedly invested another $500M in One Web- his satellite Internet start-up company!
Japan’s SoftBank plans to work with Ericsson to conduct a joint trial of “5G” in the 4.5-GHz band in dense urban areas of Japan. The end-to-end trial will involve two 5G new radios, a virtual RAN and EPC, beamforming, Massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO) functionality and test support services.
The trial is set to commence once Softbank obtains an experimental 5G license, Ericsson said.
Editors Note: Of course, no one knows what the “5G” air interface/RAN will be for this trial, because it’s not even been considered by ITU-R WP 5D which is standardizing IMT 2020. That 5G standardization work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.
The key question is where will the “5G” endpoints/handsets come from? Ericsson doesn’t make ’em any more! Neither does Nokia which is involved in several other “5G” trials. Huawei and ZTE “5G” trials are in better shape, because both vendors make handsets/smartphones as well as base stations.
3GPP Progress on 5G can be found in this presentation. It’s crucial to note that 3GPP Release 15 (to be completed March 2018) will aim at a first phase of expected “5G” deployments in 2020 and is dependent on LTE. 3GPP Release 16 (true 5G) will target a submission to the ITU WP5D IMT-2020 standards committee.
In March 2017, SoftBank was granted an experimental licence to conduct tests in the 28GHz millimeter wave band and teamed up with Ericsson for trials that were to be conducted in indoor and outdoor environments covering both mobile and stationary tests. That followed more basic tests in the 4.5-GHz and 15-GHz bands in Tokyo in 2016.
The operator also recently announced plans to deploy Ericsson’s Radio Dot system across Japan to improve indoor coverage in high-density urban areas. Softbank has been testing the technology since 2015.
SoftBank announced in June it was working with ZTE to run trials on the 4.5GHz band in areas of metropolitan Tokyo.
SoftBank also is planning tests on the 4GHz and 15GHz bands and began conducting pre-standard 5G field trials with Ericsson in August 2016. It deployed Massive MIMO on its 4G network in the second half of 2016.
The wireless network operator, with a 19 per cent market share in Japan, aims to be one of the first in the world to launch commercial 5G services in 2020 or soon thereafter. SoftBank wants to be one of the first global network operators to deploy 5G services once the standardization process is complete and seeks to position itself as a pioneer of 5G.