O2 Telefónica extends core network deal with Ericsson

  • German operator has extended its existing 5G core contract with Ericsson
  • Partners flag the successful execution of an in-service software upgrade
  • O2 Telefónica continues to pursue a multi-vendor, multi-cloud strategy

Telefónica Deutschland (O2 Telefónica) flagged the “multi-year” extension of its existing core network partnership with Ericsson, continuing the Germany-based operator’s policy of pursuing a multi-vendor and multi-cloud strategy.

Ericsson has been the supplier of O2 Telefónica’s classic 5G core network since 2020 and supports standalone and non-standalone 5G services as well as 4G and 2G services. As part of the latest deal extension, the partners have agreed to develop and implement new core network functions.

They also hailed what they claim is a new milestone: the execution of a software upgrade on the user plane of the operational 5G core network, otherwise known as an in-service software upgrade or ISSU. As explained by O2 Telefónica, in-service software upgrades enable operators to update software in the core network without having to interrupt operations in individual parts of the network or reroute data traffic.

The duo are also working on automating the process of introducing software, for example through continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), in order to improve network efficiency and speed time-to-market for new services.

Mallik Rao, chief technology and information officer (CTIO) at O2 Telefónica, said the operator has embarked on a “cloud-native transformation journey” with Ericsson that will also embrace network slicing, automation and API access.

“This allows us to roll out new features faster and without temporary maintenance breaks – an important step towards the network of the future,” Rao said.

Parallel lines

The extension of the contract with Ericsson comes hot on the heels of a separate agreement with Nokia and Amazon Web Services that involved the launch of a new 5G core network built entirely in the cloud.

O2 Telefónica again noted that it is operating this new 5G cloud core network in parallel with the Ericsson core network, which currently supports all 45 million O2 customers in Germany. The AWS-based 5G cloud core is designed for a capacity of up to 1 million customers in the first phase.

Indeed, O2 Telefónica is keen to emphasize that it works with a number of different network partners and cloud service providers. The operator has already launched its first virtual RAN and open RAN site in collaboration with Samsung, for example. It has also carried out 5G cloud core network tests with Ericsson and Google, and has collaborated with Ericsson on the RAN as part of a joint cloud RAN/open RAN test.

Rao recently opened up about the operator’s open RAN ambitions and explained how this is part of a broader disaggregated, cloud-oriented strategy that also requires O2 Telefónica to retrain its workforce, embrace an agile approach and work with a wide a range of vendors and hyperscalers.

Meanwhile, O2’s parent Telefónica Group also works with an ever-widening cohort of partners to realize its ambition to transform itself into a digital services provider.

One of the Spain-headquartered group’s latest moves was to extend its strategic alliance with Google Cloud, enabling it to expand its enterprise cloud offering and improve cloud adoption in its own business.