Japan’s KDDI taps Ericsson, Nokia for 5G roll out

KDDI has tapped Ericsson and Nokia for the mobile operator’s 5G network rollout in Japan.

KDDI expects to launch commercial 5G services in the country by March of next year using Ericsson and Nokia gear that includes 5G radio access network (RAN) equipment from the Swedish vendor’s Radio System portfolio and Nokia’s radio access AirScale product.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in April allocated spectrum to operators NTT DoCoMo, Softbank and Rakuten, along with KDDI, with the request operators build out 5G services in rural regions as well as major metropolitan areas. The telecom regulation body divided the country up into 4,500 blocks, with the requirement that operators install 5G base stations in at least 50% of those areas by 2025.

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KDDI hopes to achieve 93% coverage by the end of March 2025, and reportedly pledged 466 billion yen ($4 billion) for network investments.

Ericsson’s gear will help support KDDI’s network rollout using the operator’s sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave spectrum holdings.  KDDI and Ericsson have previously partnered on joint 5G tests over the 4.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands.

“Having established our important partnership with KDDI in 2013, we have now expanded our collaboration efforts,” said Chris Houghton, SVP and head of Market Area North East Asia at Ericsson, in a statement. "We are excited about our involvement in KDDI’s 5G network buildout, which will provide a sound basis for our future collaboration as well as allowing our partner to offer users a whole new generation of mobile services.”

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Nokia said it's helping KDDI modernize its 4G network with telecom equipment that supports both 4G and 5G operations, and can be deployed in both distributed and centralized architectures. The Finnish vendor already supplies KDDI across radio, fixed networks, mobile core network and software solutions. KDDI’s 5G network will deliver enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) for consumers in Japan, as well as enhanced Machine Type Communication (eMTC) and 5G ultra reliable low latency connectivity (URLLC), according to Nokia.

Japan’s major mobile operators all previously decided to exclude Chinese equipment vendors, including Huawei and ZTE, from their next-generation networks. In addition to Ericsson and Nokia, Samsung Electronics is a third vendor that’s been chosen to supply telecom gear for KDDI’s 5G network, the Korea Times reported Monday.  The outlet said the Samsung’s contract with KDDI extends from 2019 to 2024, with an estimated value of $2 billion.

In January, Samsung and KDDI completed a 5G test transmitting 4K ultra high-definition surveillance video on a train platform in Tokyo using 28 GHz spectrum and a 5G base station.