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NTT DOCOMO has published a comprehensive, "5G Open RAN Ecosystem Whitepaper" describing the Open Radio Access Network (RAN) Ecosystem - OREC project in detail.  Honore LaBourdette, Vice President, Telecom Media & Entertainment Industry at Red Hat and Sadayuki Abeta, Vice President & General Manager of the Radio Access Network Development Department at NTT DOCOMO, had a joint interview with Telecom TV that explains how the OREC project can accelerate Open RAN and can help 5G intelligent RAN deployment.  

NTT DOCOMO, with the help of other ecosystem members including Red Hat, helps package the best-of-breed 5G RAN system for deploying, operating, and managing OREC environment based on requests from operators considering 5G RAN to serve diverse companies and other operators needed. 

Benefit from Open RAN

Open RAN can help Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) avoid vendor lock-in. MNOs can freely choose and adopt best-of-breed solutions among various vendors considering time-to-market and cost in this process by only adding or replacing the required components from COTS solutions at the required time.

Figure: Operations across RAN, MEC and Core

Figure: Operations across RAN, MEC and Core

The transformation of radio access networks by open RAN is driven in three main technical areas:

  1. Open interface realizing mix-and-match of RAN equipment from different vendors.

  2. Intelligence driving optimization and automation of RAN operations. 

  3. Virtualization or containerization allows disaggregation of RAN equipment hardware and software and the following benefits can be expected: 

    1. Best-of-breed RAN solutions by disaggregating software and hardware

      • Avoid vendor lock-in (existing RAN node is tightly/vertically integrated)

      • Reduce CAPEX/OPEX by leveraging COTS hardware

      • Increase extensibility of RAN services by RAN software upgrade

      • Improve performance with the latest generation hardware platform

      • Bring deployment flexibility

    2. Simplified and intelligent RAN operations by virtualization and automation technology

      • Leverage cloud technology (e.g. scale-in/out and auto-healing)

      • Realize RIC and Zero-touch provisioning

    3. Share infrastructure and operations from edge to core (as shown in Figure) 

      • Common infrastructure and operations across RAN, MEC and Mobile Core Network

      • Unified life cycle management of virtual resource and application

Solving the challenges by OREC

There are two barriers in the RAN industry to introducing O-RAN based COTS solutions efficiently.  The first one is a lack of end-to-end integration and lack of multi-vendor interoperability testing among the equipment. The second one is a mindset that performance, such as capacity, throughput, power consumption and currently available O-RAN based COTS solutions, seems less competitive than traditional dedicated hardware.   

As Abeta mentioned in the Telecom TV interview, NTT DOCOMO has already estimated that the performance of the latest COTS solutions and accelerator devices such as FPGA, eASIC and GPU will achieve the same level of performance or more performance than traditional hardware.  

This is the reason why we joined the Open RAN Ecosystem (OREC) established by NTT DOCOMO.  All of OREC members agreed with their estimation and believe O-RAN based COTS solutions should become more attractive and more competitive in a few years.  We are now working on providing solutions to the challenges, together with NTT DOCOMO and other OREC members. 

NTT DOCOMO is now building an OREC testbed in Japan for global 5G players including other MNOs that can test these solutions together. 

Collaborating with NEC in OREC

In the "5G Open RAN Ecosystem'' whitepaper Xilinx mentioned "ecosystem Integration with Red Hat OpenShift, along with NEC 5G Software stack, Dell Hardware are important steps in this OREC activity." Also, LaBourdette mentioned our collaboration at Telecom TV interview.   

We are very excited to contribute to 5G Software stack development by NEC and Xilinx in the initial OREC formation. NEC and Red Hat have developed a carrier-grade OpenStack NFV solution running NEC's vEPC in 2015, and since then, we continue to partner on several NFV projects. And now we are working on CNF projects together, and NEC’s 5G Core container workloads have been validated in our CNF certification program. 

This allows MNOs to deploy a horizontal Telco cloud across 5G RAN, MEC and Mobile Core Network using Red Hat OpenShift.

NTT DOCOMO OREC with 12 partners

NTT DOCOMO announced in February 2021 that it had agreed with 12 companies to cooperate towards the "5G Open RAN Ecosystem" (OREC) with the objective to globally accelerate Open RAN and help enable flexible network deployment to serve diverse company and operator needs in the 5G era. To learn more about OREC vision and activity, watch the joint interview video at Telecom TV.

The video for the joint Interview with NTT DOCOMO and Red Hat has been posted on the Telecom TV site.


About the author

Hidetsugu (Hyde) Sugiyama is a Chief Architect at Red Hat, focused on the digital service provider and telecom sector in Japan. Sugiyama has been with Red Hat for over eight years, working on software-defined networking, network functions virtualization, edge computing solutions development, and joint go-to-market with technology partners and R&D customers. He has 34 years of experience in the information and communications technology industry.