NTT DOCOMO and NEC successfully test 5G SA using O-RAN equipment in multi-vendor configuration

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NTT DOCOMO and NEC have successfully tested a 5G standalone (SA) network using a base station conforming to O-RAN specifications in a multi-vendor configuration.

A software upgrade to NEC’s 5G base station baseband unit operating on DOCOMO’s commercial network transitioned it from a non-standalone system into a standalone using the same hardware.

5G SA networks enable operators to provide services that take full advantage of the latest mobile generation.

Operators can use 5G SA networks for features including eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband), mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication), and URLLC (Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications).

The interoperability provided by O-RAN has been hailed as the solution to vendor lock-in and enables smaller players to compete against the incumbent players with cheaper and more flexible equipment.

A US-led campaign warning that Chinese vendors such as Huawei pose a security risk led many governments to ban or restrict the use of such equipment in national infrastructure.

The exile of vendors like Huawei – that have provided equipment for multiple generations of networks – has been costly for operators and set back their rollouts. Authorities such as the UK Government have put their weight behind O-RAN, claiming that it will help to reduce the impact of such decisions in the future.

However, O-RAN isn’t without its critics.

Last month, Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (translated to English, or Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik – abbreviated as BSI – in German) released a report warning that O-RAN poses a security risk.

NEC says that it will continue to verify the performance of its O-RAN compliant 5G base station baseband unit and will aim to introduce further units to DOCOMO’s commercial network.

(Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash)

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