KDDI taps Nokia, Ericsson to support 5G standalone network

Japanese mobile operator works with Nordic comms tech giants for cloud-based solutions to support standalone 5G network

Japanese mobile operator KDDI has turned to Sweden’s Ericsson for enabling hardware and software solutions to support its standalone 5G offering.

Working with Ericsson, KDDI says it has achieved a 5G standalone cloud-native CI/CD software pipeline breakthrough, enabling fast and efficient delivery of new software and functionalities while maintaining network quality.

Ericsson pointed out that communications service providers need faster and more efficient software delivery models to reduce time to market for new features, but warned that given the complexity of telecoms networks, legacy delivery mechanisms will be insufficient to cope with the demands of 5G.

The trial involved 3GPP Release 15-compliant, containerised standalone 5G core technology, designed to support a 5G standalone core network that could take KDDI one step closer to network slicing and ultra-reliable low latency. The container-based technology also aims to enable automatic deployment of new software and functionalities, while maintaining the quality and availability of the 5G core network.

Ericsson and KDDI partnered to create a cross-organisational end-to-end 5G CI/CD pipeline – moving from native to virtualised and cloud-native network functions and speeding up the software acceptance process through advanced automation of software distribution, deployment, validation and feedback, while reducing human-error risks. The pipeline deploys software from Ericsson’s product development units into KDDI’s environment without human intervention.

The CI/CD pipeline is said to be able to shorten time to market of new software from months to weeks. Ericsson claims the CI/CD pipeline enabled KDDI to deploy complicated sliced and distributed network functions more easily through simplified workflows.

“Our 5G core and unique CI/CD capabilities mean faster time to market, higher performance and cost efficiency,” said Jan Karlsson, Ericsson’s head of business area digital services. “Agile delivery of services while maintaining high quality and availability is a must in 5G core networks. Our CI/CD end-to-end software pipeline achieves this. We are happy to continue to work with KDDI to automate its network operation.”

Meanwhile, with Nokia, KDDI has just completed a trial of the 5G core standalone (SA) network, using the Finnish firm’s AirGile cloud-native core system. The technology can be rolled out in a traditional network environment or a cloud environment and is fully compliant with 3GPP Release 15 5G core functions. The test was conducted independently of previous generations’ mobile network architecture.

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As KDDI plans to evolve from a non-standalone (NSA) 5G core network to a full 5G SA core, the trial was designed to ensure the operator could understand the key requirements, roadmap and performance of a 5G core SA deployment. The trial allowed KDDI to highlight how a 5G control plane can utilise the communication model of web services to create multiple software instances in a cloud environment.

Nokia applied a service-based architecture to the 5G control plane, moving control functions into a cloud-based environment to provide KDDI with improved scalability, velocity and flexibility.

“For Nokia, 5G is much more than radio – it’s an end-to-end network transformation,” said John Harrington, head of Nokia Japan. “We are pleased to have successfully completed this 5G core SA network trial together with KDDI, as it marks a crucial milestone for KDDI’s 5G SA deployment as well as for Japan’s 5G.

“Nokia will continue to contribute to the best of 5G and the cloud to enhance business processes and bring new applications and benefits to more markets and consumers.”

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