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NEC, Fujitsu begin 5G base station Open RAN tech interoperability testing

Japanese tech giants team up to accelerate the global reach of base station equipment conforming to O-RAN specifications and aim to stimulate growth and innovation in the open 5G market

As the deployment and value of open radio access network (Open RAN or O-RAN) have increased rapidly over the last year or two, NEC and Fujitsu have begun developing technologies for interoperability testing between 5G base station equipment conforming to O-RAN specifications at their respective laboratories in the UK and the US.

The companies say that with the start of 5G commercial services in various countries, so-called post-5G technology, with enhanced functions such as ultra-low latency and multiple simultaneous connections, is expected to be used in a variety of industries, such as automobile factories. Indeed, the firms expect the technologies that realise these functions will serve as the core of Japan’s competitiveness.

They also note that in recent years, base station equipment has become more open because of O-RAN front-haul interface specifications formulated by the O-RAN Alliance, and it is becoming possible to connect to RUs (radio units) and CUs/DUs (central units/distributed units) from a variety of suppliers. But to quickly verify interoperability between different suppliers’ equipment, it is necessary to establish a verification process, develop tools that can be used in common, and to develop a verification environment, say the companies.

The fundamental aim of the partnership – implemented as part of the Post-5G Infrastructure Enhancement R&D Project under the aegis of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) of Japan – is designed to improve the efficiency of interoperability verification.

NEDO has commissioned NEC and Fujitsu to conduct R&D on assessment and verification technologies for interoperability between base station equipment and build an environment and developing technologies to assess and verify the interoperability of different suppliers’ equipment and the impact of such connections on the entire network.

NEC and Fujitsu say they will combine their experience and knowhow in developing base station equipment compliant with the front-haul interface specifications of the O-RAN Alliance. The pair will develop technologies to verify the interoperability of various suppliers’ equipment for O-RAN front-haul including FrontHaul Analyser, Pseudo-DU, test scenario extraction tools, test parameter change tools and validation result determination tools.

NEC and Fujitsu say introducing these technologies into the verification environments of both companies’ laboratories will make it possible to significantly improve the efficiency of interoperability verification for different suppliers’ equipment. Both companies are scheduled to build a verification environment using these technologies in their respective laboratories from this month.

They are confident that taking advantage of this verification environment offers the potential to significantly streamline interoperability verification between base station equipment from different suppliers. Through the initiative, NEC, Fujitsu and NEDO also aim to accelerate the global reach of base station equipment that conforms to O-RAN specifications and contribute to stimulating growth and innovation in the open 5G market.

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