Open RAN, with its vendor-neutral disaggregation of the Radio Access Network at both the hardware and software levels, is generating a lot of interest within the 5G market, as mobile network operators (MNOs) look towards a future beyond a single-vendor RAN provider.
And NEC’s announcement, that it plans to launch new 5G massive MIMO radio units for Open RAN, which will be commercially available next year, will provide even more choice for operators looking to move away from a single vendor approach.
"NEC has long been developing 5G base station equipment for global markets,” said Patrick Lopez, VP of product management and 5G products at NEC. “As illustrated by the announcement from Vodafone earlier this month, NEC is investing to maintain a market-leading position in the Open RAN ecosystem."
NEC and Vodafone have an ongoing partnership regarding Open RAN, going back to October 2020, when the companies announced the first successful voice call made on an open virtual Radio Access Network (Open RAN), on Vodafone's network in the Netherlands.
A Focus on C-band spectrum
Open RAN, as it suggests, allows the use of general-purpose, processor-based platforms and accessible interfaces, which considerably lessens the dependency on a single-vendor. And NEC says that its new radio units (RUs) will feature “higher output and wider bandwidth when compared to conventional products”, thus expanding the communications area and delivering higher speeds.
The new RUs from NEC will be compatible with the n77, n78 and C-Band 3.7GHz frequency band (3.3-4.2GHz), which is globally used as a 5G frequency. The C-band frequency has been earmarked as prime spectrum for 5G services, because it offers a sweet spot between capacity and speed, with the potential to provide a big chunk of contiguous spectrum that will support channels with wide bandwidth.
NEC's proprietary high-density mounting technology, power saving technology, and fanless design will also enable a compact format, with the new RUs being built in line with O-RAN fronthaul interface specifications, defined by the O-RAN Alliance.