NEC, Mavenir drive mMIMO through Open RAN on Orange France 5G SA

IT and comms giant teams with cloud-native telecoms software provider to drive open and advanced radio access network functionality with deployment of massive MIMO on leading telco’s experimental 5G SA network in France

NEC Corporation and Mavenir are claiming what they call a deployment milestone virtual open radio access network (Open RAN)-based massive multiple input, multi output (mMIMO) technology, running on an experimental 5G standalone (SA) network from Orange France using an open fronthaul interface.

The technology companies believe that Interoperability between radios and virtualised distributed Units (vDUs) over the O-RAN Alliance Open Fronthaul Interface is key to Open RAN’s ability to simplify the deployment of multi-vendor networks and eliminate supplier lock-in.

The technologies have been deployed at the Orange Gardens campus in Chatillon near Paris, and are part of the extension of project Pikeo – Orange’s cloud-based and fully automated experimental 5G SA network, which was unveiled in 2021.

Noting that it was moving towards a “zero touch network” and aiming to differentiate its services through the quality of experience it offers its customers, the global operator announced the launch of what it said at the time would be Europe’s first 5G standalone (SA) network, which will act as a blueprint for the next generation of more efficient and agile infrastructures.

The experimental network project is designed to run over a two-year period and ramp up to encompass several hundred users, and is regarded as a key step in realising Orange’s vision of the future of networks.

Underlining its commitment to Open RAN technology, the experimental network will be 100% software-enabled, and is data and artificial intelligence (AI)-driven, fully automated and cloud-native.

Orange believes that by implementing and operating this network, it will enable itself to better understand how these technologies coexist and impact on the network lifecycle.

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The deployment sees Mavenir’s cloud-native Open virtualised Radio Access Network (Open vRAN) software being used on Orange’s cloud infrastructure, with NEC’s 32T32R mMIMO active antenna unit (AAU) to deliver what is intended to be high-capacity and enhanced coverage.

“Mavenir and NEC’s successful Open RAN deployment of mMIMO on Orange’s Innovation 5G SA experimental network is a major stepping stone on the road towards Open RAN deployments, and illustrates Orange’s commitment to the development of multi-vendor Open RAN solutions with innovative partners,” said Arnaud Vamparys, senior vice-president of radio access networks and microwaves at Orange.

“Our Open RAN Integration Centre, open to our partners worldwide, contributes to the development of a strong Open RAN ecosystem in Europe.”

“Deploying 5G SA mMIMO is a significant milestone in developing Open RAN and transitioning from virtualised to cloudified networks,” added Mavenir executive chairman Hubert de Pesquidoux. “We are very proud of our continuing collaboration with Orange, NEC and other companies that are proving the potential of the multi-vendor, cloud-native, standards-based approach.”

Naohisa Matsuda, general manager of NEC’s 5G strategy and business, said: “The latest deployment of Open RAN mMIMO in Europe is another milestone for Open RAN, and one that required close collaboration and tight integration between multiple vendors. This synergy is exactly what Open RAN needs to successfully deliver on its promise of a truly open multi-vendor ecosystem.

“Forward-thinking mobile operators like Orange are showcasing the potential of Open RAN mMIMO. This is the right time for the mobile industry to follow the blueprint set by industry-leading operators to move to the new era of Open RAN-powered connectivity.”

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