Telefónica works with Rakuten Mobile to deploy open RAN in phases

Rakuten Mobile has established its first partnership with another service provider to share its learnings from building its greenfield wireless network. Today, Rakuten Mobile signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work with Telefónica on open radio access network (RAN), operation support systems (OSS) and 5G core technologies.

The partners will conduct trials of open RAN architectures, including CUs, DUs, RRUs, and other necessary network equipment and software components. They’ll also jointly develop proposals for the role of the artificial intelligence in the RAN.

In an email to FierceWireless, a Telefónica spokesperson said, “As far as general open RAN initiatives, we will deploy pilots in our core markets of Brazil, Germany, Spain and the UK between this year and the beginning of next year. Our objective in these pilots is creating a new RAN vendor that comprises a specific consortium with better chances to deliver open RAN successfully. To do so, we are working to develop the technology through our strategic collaboration with Altiostar, Gigatera Communications, Intel, Supermicro and Xilinx.”

Telefónica plans to deploy open RAN in three phases:

  • Phase 0 / 2020-2021: Pilots
  • Phase 1 / 2021-2022: Initial deployments
  • Phase 2 / 2022: Massive deployments in Spain, Brazil, Germany and UK

“The objective is having open RAN in 50% of the network deployed between 2022-2025,” said the spokesperson.

Enrique Blanco, CTO and chief information officer at Telefónica, said in a statement today: “Telefónica strongly believes that networks are evolving toward end-to-end virtualization through an open architecture, and open RAN is a key piece of the whole picture. Telefonica and Rakuten Mobile have signed this MoU to work toward evaluating and demonstrating the capability and feasibility of open RAN architectures and make them a reality.”

With Rakuten Mobile, Telefónica will also collaborate on 4G and 5G core technology. Currently, Rakuten is using Nokia technology for its 4G core, but it’s working with Japan’s NEC for its 5G standalone (SA) core.

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

The 5G SA core from NEC is 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, so it’s possible that Telefónica could be a first customer for this 5G core product.

And finally, Telefónica and Rakuten Mobile will refine OSS technology that is currently used by Rakuten Mobile in Japan. Rakuten Mobile’s OSS is based on technology from the startup Innoeye, a company that Rakuten purchased in May.

RELATED: Rakuten buys OSS startup Innoeye with more than 500 employees

Earlier this year, Rakuten Mobile CTO Tareq Amin told FierceWireless that Rakuten was completely revamping telecom OSS. “I’ve never been a big fan of how the OSS layer has been orchestrated for the past 20 years,” he said. “If you are in any telco today, you will discover 100-plus boxes that do different things. The OSS/BSS platform we have built converges everything, converges these 100 separate boxes with artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Today, Amin said in a statement that he envisions the partnership with Telefónica to also “co-explore” further development around the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).

RCP is comprised of all the learnings Rakuten Mobile compiled while it was building its greenfield 4G network in Japan. Rakuten has set up global headquarters in the United States and in Singapore to promote its RCP.

RELATED: Rakuten Mobile’s new U.S. general manager talks about her plans

Asked if Telefónica planned to use the RCP in its own network deployments, a Telefónica spokesperson said, “The MoU doesn’t imply initially the use of Rakuten’s Communications Platform.”