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Fujitsu, NTT look beyond 5G to realise sustainable digital society

IT giants come together, envisioning a new, energy-efficient digital society founded on global and open collaboration with a range of partners supporting the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network

NTT Corporation (NTT) and Fujitsu have forged a strategic business alliance, with the aim of combining and taking advantage of their respective strengths to deliver innovation that can contribute to the resolution of societal and environmental challenges. 

Specifically, Fujitsu and NTT will conduct joint research and development activities towards what they called the realisation of a sustainable digital society, offering energy-efficient, sustainable technologies in areas including open architecture, optical transport and mobile communications, combined with disaggregated high-performance computing, all of which, the companies said, are made possible by photonics-electronics convergence device innovation.

Putting their partnership into context, NTT and Fujitsu said that as the digital transformation (DX) of society and industry accelerates against the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis, many anticipate a drastic shift towards a more decentralised society built around the premise of protecting public health as part of a post-pandemic new normal.

They warn that the ICT systems supporting this new world of work will connect vast amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors, and digital space, and process these in real time, demanding ever-faster and larger-scale communications technologies as well as enormous computing resources.

In addition, the firms add that awareness around these issues continues to grow, and a consensus has emerged throughout the world that businesses can no longer go on without making bold commitments to achieve sustainable growth that combines economic efficiency with meaningful, substantive measures to resolve these challenges.

Against this backdrop, the two companies will conduct joint research in fields that use their respective technological strengths, including optical technology, for which NTT and Fujitsu said that when combined they boast the world’s largest number of patents, based on NTT’s information and communications technologies and their operational know-how, as well as Fujitsu’s computing technologies.

Moreover, NTT Electronics Corporation (NEL), which develops hardware products utilising NTT R&D’s device technologies, will acquire a 66.6% stake in Fujitsu Advanced Technologies (FATEC), which possesses semiconductor mounting technology. FATEC will begin business as NTT Electronics Cross Technologies and commence operations on 1 June 2021.

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FATEC’s specific initiatives will cover three key areas: establishing photonics-electronics convergence manufacturing technology; promotion of open communication technologies for optical transport and mobile communications; and joint R&D for low-power consumption in high-performance computing in a disaggregated computing infrastructure.

By the end of fiscal year 2022, the new company will start to provide compact, power-saving optical communication co-packages that integrate digital coherent optical communications LSIs and coherent optical sub assembly (COSA) technology based on silicon photonics technology. These will aim to contribute to high-speed, large-capacity communications and low-power optical networks, where power consumption is a growing concern.

In addition, with an eye towards the 6G era, both companies will introduce a new architecture for applying ultra-high-speed, compact, and low-cost photonics-electronics convergence devices on mobile communication products, as well as a wide range of other ICT products, starting with Fujitsu’s 5G base stations. NTT will now expand its photonics-electronics convergence technologies, including semiconductors for computing, for a variety of applications, with the aim of realising energy-efficient ICT systems.

Accelerating innovation

The enhancement of photonics-electronics convergence technology will aim to further accelerate innovation with partners to expand photonics-electronics convergence devices, shifting away from the existing, vertically integrated model that relies on specific suppliers, with the ultimate aim of encouraging a climate in which a variety of innovative ICT services can be realised to bring flexibility for a new digital society.

To promote more open mobile networks in anticipation of the Beyond 5G era, the two companies will study the development and promotion of open interface-based technologies, as well as the development of global businesses based on the results of these activities.

The first step will be to develop technologies that can be established globally with a variety of partners through avenues, including the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem launched by NTT DOCOMO. For example, the two companies will work on measures to improve performance, which they say remains a challenge for expanding the adoption of virtualised radio access network (vRAN) and developing control technologies to optimise radio access networks.

NTT will use these technologies to further enhance mobile network infrastructure in preparation for full-scale 5G deployment. Technology developed through the collaboration will be used by telecommunications carriers on a global basis through the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem initiative and other means.

NTT and Fujitsu are also promoting open joint research with a number of global partners to realise a sustainable digital society that will contribute to the vision of the IOWN initiative set up to boost the development of networks and information processing infrastructure. This includes terminals that can provide high-speed, high-capacity communication using technology focused on optics, as well as tremendous computational resources.

NTT will create smart solutions and ICT platforms that make use of the knowledge and technology cultivated through this alliance, and will strive to create an inclusive, safe, flexible and sustainable community. On 1 April 2021, Fujitsu established the IOWN/6G Platform Development Office with the aim of developing technologies for the IOWN initiative and the 6G era. Research and development are now in full swing.

Fujitsu aims to provide new value to customers in areas including manufacturing, distribution, retail and medical industries. The two companies will continue to proactively discuss further specific areas of collaboration under this alliance.

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