New O-RAN massive MIMO tech enables multi-vendor 5G networks

(Image credit: Rakuten Mobile)

Wading through the acronym soup of the telecoms industry can be challenging at times, and when it comes to a RAN – radio access network – there are a number of variations, but it’s Open RAN (O-RAN), or open radio access networks, which is currently capturing headlines.

The reason for this is that companies, organisations, and governments have become increasingly frustrated and concerned about the reliance on a single vendor to deliver communications infrastructure. And the global concern around the security of Huawei technology has placed more focus on creating a multi-vendor environment, to the point where there are now not one, not two, but three industry groups pushing for change (the O-RAN Alliance, TIP OpenRAN and the recently launched Open RAN Policy Coalition).

First O-RAN Alliance-compliant mMIMO

“Open RAN as a concept is one that the whole industry is now actively pursuing as a means to introduce supply chain diversity into mobile networks globally."

Ashraf Dahod, Altiostar Networks.

To this end, Altiostar, NEC, and Rakuten Mobile have today announced testing of the industry’s first O-RAN Alliance-compliant massive MIMO 5G with vRAN. And this will help Rakuten Mobile introduce a software-centric 5G network in Japan.

“Our vision for Rakuten Mobile Network is to build the world’s first end-to-end, fully virtualized, software-defined mobile network. A network that innovates at the speed-of-software and scales at the speed-of-cloud,” said Tareq Amin, CTO of Rakuten Mobile Network.

The new interoperability testing is based on open specifications from the O-RAN Alliance, and will enable mobile network operators (MNOs) to use multiple vendors when rolling out 5G networks.

“Open RAN as a concept is one that the whole industry is now actively pursuing as a means to introduce supply chain diversity into mobile networks globally,” said Ashraf Dahod, CEO of Altiostar Networks. “Altiostar is leading the industry with this network transformation by ensuring interoperability, integration and most importantly extensive testing to ensure that we have a commercial, carrier-grade solution for both 4G and 5G while keeping the principles of Open RAN in place.”

Altiostar is integrating the O-RAN distributed unit (O-DU) functionality of its virtual radio access network (vRAN) software with NEC Corporation’s O-RAN Radio Unit (O-RU) using fully compliant control, user, synchronization and management (C/U/S/M) plane protocols based on O-RAN Alliance guidelines. 

The 5G layer is built using container network functions (CNF) that leverage Rakuten Mobile’s cloud infrastructure platform that is part of its 4G network build out. 

“Rakuten Mobile is a big supporter of O-RAN principles and has seen the benefit of supply chain diversity in our own network,” said Amin. “By combining the spectral efficiency of massive MIMO along with an advanced cloud-based RAN, we are leveraging and introducing advanced innovative technology from both NEC and Altiostar, who are specialists in these respective fields.”

Dan Oliver

Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.