NTT Docomo selects NEC for 5G standalone core, edge computing

Japan’s NTT Docomo chose NEC as the vendor for its 5G standalone (SA) mobile core network, which it plans to launch in 2021.

NEC’s SA 5G core is based on a virtualized evolved packet core and container technology. The core will enable network slicing where the operator will be able offer “slices” of its network from end-to-end for the exclusive use of enterprise customers.

In addition to providing its 5G SA core technology, NEC is also providing NTT Docomo with a compact data processor, which it calls the "UPF mini,” to be placed at edge locations.  The UPF mini offers smaller-sized computing resources to process applications at the edge, isolated from other processes on the operating system.

The UPF mini data processor is smaller than conventional compute processors, saving on power consumption and increasing the flexibility in terms of where the unit can be installed.

NEC chart

According to NEC’s chart, the UPF mini would be placed near base stations in NTT Docomo’s network.

The vendor says that in order to achieve ultra-low latency, which is a key feature of 5G, it is necessary to reduce the latency of the entire network configuration, including the wired section and the wireless section between the base station and the user terminal. Placing the UPF mini in wired sections and shortening the physical distance to the application server enables edge computing to reduce the overall processing time.

LTE core

NEC already provides NTT Docomo with its core network vEPC for LTE. The 5G service launched by NTT Docomo in March 2020, uses an extension of this vEPC and operates as a non-standalone (NSA) core network. NEC also provides base stations and 5G radio base stations for LTE. Together with this SA core network, NEC will provide total support for NTT Docomo's 5G services.

RELATED: Rakuten and NEC take on global telecom vendors with 5G core

Rakuten Mobile is also using NEC for its new 5G SA core, based on containers. And not only will Rakuten Mobile use this core in its own network, but Rakuten and NEC plan to offer it as a product to other operators – in competition with global telecom vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson.