Barely a month after unveiling its Global Open RAN Center of Excellence in the UK, Japan's NEC Corporation has laid down some open RAN roots in India.
While the Center of Excellence is aimed at providing "execution and technical support" for NEC's global open RAN business, the open RAN lab in India – which NEC describes as "complementary" – is aimed at verifying what looks essentially to be an open RAN sub-ecosystem revolving around products supplied by NEC and its OSS subsidiary NetCracker.
Specifically, the lab's job is to pre-integrate open RAN components from partners and then put together "end-to-end commercial-ready solutions according to customer-specific needs."
According to NEC's official announcement, "solutions will undergo end-to-end practical validations on functional/operational performance and quality assurance throughout all layers of the RAN, from network and cloud to service layers."
The facility is also responsible for post-deployment troubleshooting, lifecycle management, as well as continuous integration and continuous delivery of solutions. If all goes to plan, the lab in India, combined with the Center of Excellence in the UK, will "accelerate development" of the Japanese supplier's 5G open ecosystem.
"NEC will take leadership in curating pre-validated models and facilitating commercial, multivendor open RAN deployment as a viable alternative 5G network for operators," claimed a bullish Kazuhiko Harasaki, who is deputy general manager at NEC's service provider solutions division.
NEC flagged three well-known open RAN suppliers it will be working with initially at the facility in India: Altiostar, GigaTera and MTI.
Software company Altiostar is majority-owned by Japan's disruptive Rakuten Mobile, which uses NEC for its virtualized 5G core. GigaTera develops remote radio units (RRUs) and is working on open RAN deployment with Spain's Telefónica (which also has a stake in Altiostar). As for MTI, it is another supplier of O-RAN compliant RRUs, and involved in Dish's open RAN plans in the US.
The lab's opening seems to have come at an opportune time in India, with the country's major mobile operators – Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea – each showing a willingness to move towards more open networks.
India plus Japan equals less China
The unveiling of NEC's open RAN lab comes against a backdrop of local media reports claiming that the respective governments of India and Japan are set to formalize closer ICT ties as a way to curb China's role in digital infrastructure.
According to unnamed officials, India will support the introduction of 5G wireless networks, submarine fiber-optic cables and other technologies from Japan. In return, it seems, Japan will get greater access to India's software know-how.
Preparations are apparently underway to sign an MoU along these lines at an upcoming meeting between Japan's internal affairs and communications minister Ryota Takeda and Ravi Shankar Prasad, India's telecom minister.
— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading