NTT DOCOMO spearheads new 5G Open RAN Ecosystem

  • NTT DOCOMO wants to build on its Open RAN experience
  • Gathers a group of technology partners and will further develop vRAN software
  • Aims to help other operators build and run disaggregated 5G radio access networks
  • Now two Japanese operators are to offer up Open RAN solutions to the network operator community

NTT DOCOMO is at the heart of a new 5G Open RAN Ecosystem that aims to accelerate the introduction of disaggregated radio access network architectures and capabilities to other network operators in a move that positions the Japanese giant as key Open RAN integrator.

The operator already has experience of deploying virtual and open radio access network technology in its 4G and 5G networks and, as a long-time supporter of Open RAN ideals and a key figure in the O-RAN Alliance, is keen to see other operators adopt open, multi-vendor architectures that can bring scale to the sector and attract broader support from the technology development community.

So it has gathered a set of key technology partners to develop “best-of-breed RAN” solutions, will put its own R&D efforts behind the further improvement of virtual RAN technology “with higher flexibility and scalability,” and plans to create a verification platform that other operators can access remotely to check out the Open RAN options.

It seems, then, that DOCOMO is acting as a vendor and integrator in this ecosystem, which sets an interesting precedent for other traditional telcos. (It should be noted that DOCOMO is renowned for its internal technology R&D processes and has plenty of experience in developing the networking products that suit its needs.)

Its list of initial ecosystem partners is also interesting, as it includes major international chip developers and telco cloud platform specialists, as well as the operator’s closest domestic technology partners. Those partners are Dell Technologies, Fujitsu, Intel, Mavenir, NEC, NTT DATA, NVIDIA, Qualcomm Technologies, Red Hat, VMware, Wind River and Xilinx.

While much Open RAN focus in the past few years has been on the traction gained by the sector’s software developers such as Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless, an increasing number of operators have noted that dedicated chip and hardware platform development is needed if Open RAN is to play a significant role in widespread, distributed and dense 5G rollouts: This ecosystem group has a very healthy selection of component, server and hardware vendors. 

The move means that two Japanese operators are offering to help other operators discover, adopt and deploy Open RAN architectures, as Rakuten Mobile has been developing its Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) for some months with a range of its own partners to provide tried and tested Open RAN planning, integration, applications and technology. (See Tech Mahindra gets a slice of the Rakuten Mobile action.)

So it looks like DOCOMO and Rakuten will be competing not only for domestic customers and revenues, but also for the international Open RAN ecosystem crown. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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