NEC and Spanish Telefonica to test Open RAN wireless

TOKYO – Japanese tech group NEC and Spanish telecommunications provider Telefonica will conduct pre-commercial trials for an open source wireless platform called Open Radio Access Networks in Spain, Germany, UK and Brazil, have the companies announced on Tuesday.

NEC will supply the equipment and act as a system integrator for the tests. Open RAN allows equipment and software from different vendors to communicate, which means network operators don’t have to depend on a single vendor and can reduce costs.

In its first multi-market foray into Open RAN, the Japanese company will use a UK research and development center to integrate and validate the platform. NEC and Telefonica aim to have at least 800 fifth-generation Open RAN bases in place by 2022.

Open RAN has become a hot topic in telecommunications, with the UK-based Vodafone group and other wireless carriers planning to adopt the technology. Telefonica aims to achieve 50% growth of the radio network on the basis of Open RAN by 2025.

But many other operators are reluctant to adopt the technology due to data security risks, a major concern in the industry. NEC hopes to strengthen its track record in Open RAN to pave the way for future large-scale contracts.

US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga agreed at their meeting in Washington in April to help fund and promote “secure and open 5G networks, including open radio access networks.” With Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE owning around 40% of the base stations, the statement was seen to reflect their intention to create an alternative to a China-led communications network.

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