Telecommunication companies Vodafone and NTT DOCOMO decided to work together in order to spread the advantages of open radio access networks (Open RAN) to a larger operator and vendor community.
In a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Vodafone and DOCOMO committed to working together to harmonize mobile operator system integration and test processes, as well as testing standards and knowledge to provide standard test scripts—a set of software instructions required to carry out a test.
This uniform testing methodology will allow vendors to deal with multiple operators without repeating themselves, saving them time, money, and resources. It will also ensure that the industry consistently produces secure by design, high-quality products as defined by the industry bodies, the 3GPP and the ORAN Alliance, in all regions and at all times.
The parties’ respective knowledge and technologies will be traded in order to carry out the partnership. Additionally, it will promote better global interoperability between various vendor systems, providing users with seamless service across 4G and 5G Open RAN networks regardless of where they reside, where they work, or where they travel.
By eliminating expensive repeat testing with several operators, smaller suppliers and startups will especially profit, fostering variety in the global supply chain.
The Service Management Orchestrator, a part of the Open RAN Network Operation Support System, and the RAN Intelligent Controller platform (SMO/RIC) are two more assets that the two companies hope to fully utilize. They want to pinpoint the salient SMO/RIC traits, predict how they will change, and specify the underlying software architecture.
Additionally, with a view to publishing a whitepaper, Vodafone and DOCOMO intend to work together to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) for operators by improving the effectiveness of RAN technologies, integration procedures, artificial intelligence/machine learning, and automation approaches.
According to Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer of Vodafone, many more companies in Europe and Asia who want to construct Open RAN networks will be able to do so due to Vodafone and DOCOMO’s combined R&D power. Instead of splintering the industry, Open RAN is uniting them across continents to promote system interoperability and vendor diversity for network equipment.
For Naoki Tani, Chief Technology Officer of NTT DOCOMO, they are excited to combine DOCOMO’s expertise in establishing a multi-vendor 5G Open RAN commercial service in Japan with Vodafone’s R&D and thought leadership in Open RAN system integration. Through their cooperation, Open RAN’s commercial adoption will be hastened and a thriving RAN ecosystem for 5G and beyond will be realized.
Moreover, the two companies have decided to explore the possibility of remotely connecting their lab resources. This will support their current Open RAN R&D facilities in the UK (Vodafone, Newbury) and Japan (DOCOMO’s Shared Open Lab, Yokosuka). Unlike the present single vendor-centric strategy in use, these labs are based on a distributed testing operating model.
Open RAN calls for a coordinated network of labs, each of which is in charge of a specific aspect of the radio infrastructure, such as the radio unit or the software, as opposed to each vendor putting up their own centralized lab for all components of a mobile base station. According to estimations by Vodafone published earlier this year, switching to a dispersed system integration lab network can result in cost savings for the industry of up to 40%.
In the future, Vodafone and DOCOMO will look into further opportunities for cooperation in order to further lay the groundwork for a healthy ecosystem and a better consumer experience.
Operators all over the world are increasingly focusing on OpenRAN, where they can take advantage of the re-energized supplier innovation to increase cost efficiency and more nimbly supply customized services in response to changing consumer demands.
The adoption of Open RAN will make it possible for operators to manage networks and provide services in fundamentally new ways; for end users, they will be able to add or change capacity more quickly; for business, they will be able to automatically fix network problems or offer enterprise-level services on demand.