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NEC is the operators’ alternative for a better 5G RAN

November 16, 2020

Mobile operators worldwide are looking for alternatives to traditional, monolithic 5G suppliers, particularly in the RAN. They recognize that 4G’s proprietary architectures and best of suite models don’t work for 5G, which is about scalability, speed, and innovation. Several Tier 1 operators have responded to the bottleneck of the RAN evolution by investing in openness to spur a healthier supplier ecosystem, better economics, and more innovation. With operators calling for openness, innovation and access to an ecosystem, NEC’s leadership in the 5G RAN stands out.

Reinventing 5G RAN’s economics

Though other parts of operators’ networks have adopted virtualization and openness, the RAN has remained an oligopoly rooted in proprietary systems. As consolidations have narrowed the 5G market, there have become too few viable, large scale 5G suppliers and not enough openness among them to help accelerate the pace of innovation or the move toward scalable and cloud-native network services delivery.

5G represents a critical set of long-term investments for operators. Operators are calling for Open RAN (O-RAN) compliant solutions because they want more innovation, an open application platform, an interoperable supplier ecosystem, and a superior economic model. NEC anticipated these demands and has taken a leadership role in the industry to deliver against them. As a result, according to Rakuten Mobile they have achieved up to 40% CAPEX savings and 30% OPEX savings (*Rakuten’s Third Quarter 2020 IR Material) over traditional networks with NEC’s partnership, 5G RAN products and O-RAN interoperability. 

Leading in 5G Innovation and Open RAN

NEC’s lead in 5G and Open RAN have been widely publicized. NEC has been an early supporter of theO-RAN Alliance from its inception and has followed with a series of world’s firsts and multiple contributions to TIP in open 5G RAN technology. NEC was first to achieve multivendor, 5G carrier aggregation, to prove out O-RAN interoperability, and to deliver a portfolio of  O-RAN compliant 5G radio units (RUs). NEC is making 5G real by continuing to drive building block discoveries, achievements and products like these.

NEC also partners closely with Tier 1 operators to launch their open RANs. In the Middle East, NEC helped to launch the first open virtual radio access network in the region, as a solution provider and integrator across O-RAN components from various vendors. As an integrator and supplier, NEC will enable the Netherlands’ VodafoneZiggo to trial its first open vRAN with components from Altiostar and others. NEC has also helped DOCOMO to become the first operator to launch 5G in Japan and to be an early adopter of O-RAN compliant 5G radio units (RUs).

Monetizing 5G networks through enterprise B2B applications

While Open RAN is compelling because of its potential to significantly reduce OPEX and CAPEX, its power to enable 5G enterprise applications can be truly transformative. With the RAN moving into an open architecture, the monolithic stack is being broken open to enable vertical-specific applications to be built on a common, software-based architecture.

The 5G business segment will expand to vertical applications, provided through cloud-enabled delivery models, to drive growth and profitability. NEC is a global leader in bringing vertical-specific 5G solutions to market leveraging its O-RAN compliant, lightweight, low-power RUs, partner products and services expertise.

For example, NEC has conducted trials to enable remote-managed robotic factories. Massive data streams are collected using high-definition image transmission and sensor networks to provide real-time directions and corrections to industrial robots. The solution can also be delivered over a private 5G network with substantial security measures to protect critical controls and confidential information. NEC continues to develop 5G-enabled applications across a range of large scale, remote-managed industrial applications in ports, warehouses, stadiums, airports, and construction sites.

Enabling cloud-native 5G architectures

NEC’s strength in the RAN, software-defined networks and vertical applications is further exhibited in its partnership with Rakuten Mobile. Rakuten Mobile chose NEC as its partner to create the world’s first fully virtualized, containerized, cloud-native 5G core network. This network is a critical part of the foundation for the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP). RCP will bring the full power of an open, cloud-native 5G network – including the vRAN - into a web scale cloud services marketplace. NEC’s expertise in software and networks and its 5G vRAN innovations are contributing to making this a reality.

Unleashing the O-RAN ecosystem

Driving innovation and a new economic model in the 5G RAN depends on ensuring interoperability in the O-RAN ecosystem, which is why NEC has taken a leadership role in it and stepped up to work and take the responsibility that it requires. The type of scale, expertise, resources, and ability to deliver integrated solutions are central to making an open 5G RAN real; and reasons why operators like NTT DOCOMO trust and select NEC products to realize multi-vendor RAN.

The O-RAN ecosystem includes leading players, such as NEC, together with other network vendors covering broader network segments, but also welcomes specialist innovators, like Altiostar, promoting cooperation across partners and customers. In this landscape, NEC plays a unique role not only as a product supplier and innovator but also as a solution integrator.

Making a better 5G RAN

NEC’s push for an open RAN is different than what most large infrastructure providers have pursued, but the 5G market requires it. Being the viable alternative to open the 5G RAN does not mean being another monolithic hardware provider. 5G is about creating the most potent, open, intelligent automation platform the world has ever witnessed. NEC is a global scale 5G innovator, a proven integrator and solution provider, and a vocal advocate for openness that has been doing the hard work to make 5G real and tocontinue the advance to 6G.

It is time for operators to take a closer look at NEC’s commitment to delivering a better 5G RAN market and to see NEC as the proven, viable alternative 5G RAN partner they need.

                   Kazuhiko Harasaki
                   Deputy General Manager
                   Service Provider Solutions Div.