NEC acquires Blue Danube Systems

Open RAN comms technology proponent and provider swoops for mobile network tech supplier to enhance its 5G product portfolio and customer support capability

As the pace of standalone 5G deployment ramped up in 2021, NEC signed off the old year by announcing that Japanese operator NTT DOCOMO had begun commercial roll-out of a network based on its packet core and base stations. Now, to up the ante in the sector, NEC has signed a definitive agreement to buy US-based startup Blue Danube Systems, a provider of CBRS/4G/5G RAN products and artificial intelligence/machine learning-based software systems.

Blue Danube Systems designs next-generation wireless systems for mobile networks and other applications and its coherent massive MIMO solution is created to bring 5G beamforming to today’s networks, dramatically increasing network capacity and end-user experience. When combined with a cloud-based software suite using machine learning techniques, Blue Danube claims its technology enables up to a 10x capacity increase in cellular networks.

The company is privately held and backed by Sequoia Capital and Silver Lake, along with other investors including AT&T.

The acquisition is expected to close around March 2022, pending regulatory approval. NEC said it was adding to its portfolio a company that can help mobile operators address the challenge of 5G network build-outs and spectrum optimisation. NEC also believes that, as an Open RAN provider, it is recognised for its end-to-end Open 5G solutions and system integration capabilities, and that it will continue to invest in the 5G business through organic and inorganic initiatives, aligned with its Mid-term management plan 2025.

The acquisition also expands NEC’s customer support capability and assets in North America, and adds to its Open RAN portfolio to support the needs and demands of customers. Blue Danube will join NEC with a team that builds onto NEC’s global 5G R&D capabilities, and the company’s patented beamforming technologies will aim to further enhance NEC’s proposition in 4G and 5G radio units based on O-RAN specifications.

It will also accelerate NEC’s expansion of RAN software assets to help customers address issues related to spectrum efficiency, RAN optimisation and reducing network opex.

“Blue Danube’s 5G products complement our Open 5G solutions portfolio, enabling us to meet growing market demands and accommodate diversified use cases,” said Shigeru Okuya, senior vice-president, NEC Corporation. “This acquisition is a great opportunity for us to expand our 5G offerings and will bring substantial value to our customers. NEC has committed to a leadership position in Open RAN network development and this move extends our physical reach and innovation roadmap to deliver on that commitment.”

Blue Danube CEO Mark Pinto added: “We are excited about joining the NEC team that is an Open RAN leader and recognised for its end-to-end Open 5G solutions and system integration capabilities. Becoming part of NEC enables Blue Danube to expand our 5G product offerings, and together we will bring ever more powerful hardware and software products based on O-RAN specifications to customers worldwide.”

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