Japan is expected set up a wide-area experimental network as early as 2022 to experiment with 5G O-RAN networks, Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported.
According to the report, the initiative will be led by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and Japan’s leading communication companies. NTT Docomo, Rakuten Mobile and NEC are expected to be included in the tests.
Japanese regulators consider that Open RAN will lower costs and make Japanese companies more competitive against Chinese vendors.
As part of the initiative, the Japanese government is designating Yokosuka Research Park in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo as an experimental area for Docomo and Rakuten to conduct O-RAN tests, according to Nikkei.
According to the ministry, Japan’s four top telecommunications firms will be in a position to roll out 5G base stations across the country by April 2024.
Japanese operator NTT Docomo and compatriot vendor NEC Corporation recently completed interoperability testing for 5G Standalone (SA) using a 5G base station baseband unit (5G CU/DU) conforming to O-RAN open interface specifications and radio units (RUs) of different vendors.
NEC said that the multi-vendor interoperability test used a software upgrade to introduce SA capability to NEC’s 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) CU/DU operating on NTT Docomo’s commercial network.
Going forward, the two companies aim to introduce the 5G CU/DU for NTT Docomo’s SA services in order to further expand its 5G services.
NEC also noted that the SA system enables network operators to provide services that take advantage of 5G features, such as eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband), mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication), and URLLC (Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications).
Earlier this year, NTT Docomo selected Samsung as a 5G network solution provider. Samsung will specifically support the carrier’s next phase of its Open RAN development.
In 2018, NTT DoCoMo, together with AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom and Orange announced the creation of the ORAN Alliance, with the aim of driving new levels of openness in the radio access network of next generation wireless systems.
Then, in February, the carrier took an additional step in its commitment to establishing an Open RAN ecosystem when it agreed to cooperate with 12 companies to move toward a “5G Open RAN Ecosystem,” with the objective to globally accelerate open radio access networks.
Meanwhile, Rakuten Mobile previously signed two different agreements with compatriot companies Fujitsu and NEC to carry out joint efforts to develop and promote Open RAN solutions for the global market.
Rakuten Mobile and Fujitsu said they will collaborate to jointly develop 4G and 5G Open RAN solutions. Fujitsu will develop new O-RAN-based 4G and 5G radio units that Rakuten Mobile will integrate into its Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) offering, with the aim of expanding into the global market.
The companies noted that the MoU will allow them to define joint global go-to-market plans to address the current and future needs of 4G and 5G Open RAN customers around the world.
Rakuten also announced a MoU with Japanese company NEC through which both companies aim to promote Open RAN technology globally.