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Nokia to deploy 5G O-RAN gear for NTT Docomo nationwide

Japan’s NTT Docomo is deploying Nokia’s open Radio Access Network (RAN) 5G AirScale baseband solution – including centralized unit (CU) and distributed unit (DU) software – in its commercial network nationwide.

According to Nokia, the solution enables Docomo to pursue a multi-supplier strategy, giving the operator the option to connect with open radio units (RU) delivered by other suppliers.

For Docomo, Nokia will deploy its 5G AirScale baseband solution, which is compliant with O-RAN specifications, in the Japanese operator’s commercial network.

Nokia’s energy-efficient solution, which is powered by the latest ReefShark System-on-Chip technology, will deliver sustainability benefits as well as operational cost savings to Docomo thanks to the solution’s small footprint and low power consumption, the Finnish vendor said in a press release.

“Nokia’s O-RAN compatible AirScale 5G Baseband solution is extremely competitive and is capable of being connected to any O-RUs on NTT Docomo’s 5G commercial network. Its high performance and low power consumption will also reduce our operational costs and support our sustainability goals,” said Masafumi Masuda, general manager of Radio Access Network Technology Promotion Office at NTT Docomo, in a statement.

Nokia & Docomo go way back

Nokia has a long history of partnering with Docomo as the RAN provider for its 3G network as well as helping the operator establish a multi-supplier 4G strategy.

While the open RAN movement sprang from a desire to break the stranglehold that Nokia and Ericsson held on the RAN, Nokia has since developed its anyRAN approach, which aims to build future-ready radio access networks together with an ecosystem of industry partners.

For open RAN, Nokia said it develops the required Open Fronthaul features on top of its high-performance RAN software, ensuring co-existence and feature performance parity with purpose-built RAN.

Nokia baseband solutions can be combined with both Nokia and third-party radios, intended for a smooth evolution path toward hybrid, cloud RAN and O-RAN deployments, according to the Finnish vendor.

“Nokia is fully committed to Open RAN and is helping its customers fulfill their Open RAN objectives. We have taken steps to ensure that our industry-leading radio access portfolio can seamlessly integrate and interoperate with products from other suppliers,” said Mark Atkinson, head of RAN at Nokia, in a statement. “Together with our ecosystem of partners, we are providing more choice and higher performance in Open RAN solutions to our customers than they will see from other RAN suppliers.”

The collaboration with Docomo isn’t likely to end with 5G. Earlier this year, Nokia and Docomo announced they had achieved two key technological milestones on the path to 6G: the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into the radio air interface and the use of new sub-terahertz (sub-THz) spectrum to boost network capacity.

In the U.S. last week, Nokia revealed the successful completion of interoperability testing with a Mavenir CBRS radio using the O-RAN Alliance 7-2x interface at Nokia’s Open RAN Innovation Center in Dallas, Texas.

John Baker, SVP, Business Development at Mavenir, said in a statement that it represented "real Open RAN" and "not the version where one supplier only connects their own products to each other. It is a great credit to both teams that they could integrate our radio with Nokia’s baseband in record time.”

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