Telefónica, NEC to carry out O-RAN pre-commercial trials in four markets

Telefónica and NEC announced an agreement to carry out Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) pre-commercial trials in Spain, Germany, the U.K. and Brazil, the Spanish carrier said in a release.

Telefónica said it has a target of reaching 50% radio network growth based on O-RAN by 2025.

Following the O-RAN trials by Telefónica in Germany and the U.K., under this new agreement, NEC will serve as the prime system integrator to implement and conduct trials of multi-vendor-based Open RAN solutions with the Telefonica group’s operating companies in four global markets, with the aim to scale to a total of at least 800 sites for commercial use starting in 2022.

The Open RAN solutions are comprised of an ecosystem of NEC’s own products as well as software and hardware products of industry partners. NEC’s open 5G massive MIMO (mMIMO) radio units (RU) with advanced beamforming will be a part of the ecosystem.

Telefónica and NEC say they will also collaborate in validating and implementing Open RAN technologies and various use cases at the newly established Telefónica Technology and Automation Lab in Madrid. The use cases include those built on AI-driven Radio Intelligent Controllers (RIC) for RAN optimization, service lifecycle automation based on Service Management and Orchestration (SMO), testing and deployment automation in accordance with Telefónica’s Continuous Integration/ Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) framework, as well as power savings optimization.

NEC’s Global Open RAN Center of Excellence (CoE) in the U.K. will lead the integration and validation of the multi-vendor ecosystem and the joint development of innovative use cases.

“Open networks are undeniably the key to driving network evolution in the 5G era and to sustaining and fulfilling our mission of consistently delivering superior experiences to our consumer and enterprise customers,” said Enrique Blanco, chief technology & information officer (CTIO) at Telefónica. “Through our long term engagement with NEC, we have firsthand knowledge of their technological and practical competence as well as their constant customer-first approach, and we are confident they are the right partners for this highly strategic initiative.”

“We are extremely honored to be selected as the strategic partner for Telefónica’s game-changing initiative that promises tremendous value and innovation in the long run,” said Shigeru Okuya, SVP of NEC. “NEC and our subsidiary Netcracker’s accumulated expertise among IT and networks is a valuable asset to help keep operators ahead of the curve in co-creating and redesigning the next generation mobile networks required in the 5G era and beyond.”

In January, Telefonica Germany said it expected to accelerate the deployment of O-RAN technology, with the aim of installing the technology at 1,000 mobile sites across Germany.

Mattias Sauder, director access and transport networks at Telefonica, said the company planned to advance the conversion of its radio network to open RAN, aiming to equip the sites within 18 months of a deployment due to begin in the second half of 2021. The executive also said that Telefonica Germany will also expand a O-RAN pilot to include all frequency ranges.

Sauder added that the carrier expects to carry out O-RAN tests with Finnish vendor Nokia during 2021.

Telefónica Deutschland has been testing O-RAN in three mobile sites in Landsberg am Lech, Bavaria.

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