Fujitsu and NTT Docomo help KT with its OpenRAN homework

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Korean telecoms group KT has built a new OpenRAN test facility with plenty of help from its Japanese friends.

Also referred to as a ‘verification facility’, the new site has been created to accelerate the introduction of OpenRAN to KT’s 5G network. It uses Fujitsu’s OpenRAN 5G base station kit and called upon NTT for technical support throughout its construction. While Korea was first to the punch with 5G, Japan has established itself as a global leader when it comes to OpenRAN tech, so it makes sense for KT to tap into that expertise.

No East Asian collaboration is complete without a memorandum of understanding, of course. The three companies signed one collectively committing them to the development of software-defined virtualized RAN (vRAN) and RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) technology. This endeavour will apparently be done in alignment with a body called the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem.

This move would appear to formalise a broader collaboration across the Sea of Japan over OpenRAN. According to the press release, KT reckons ‘the introduction of multi-vendor Open RAN [will] reduce equipment procurement and construction costs and [will] achieve flexible network construction capabilities.’ That’s what the brochure says, but opinion remains divided over whether the introduction of more vendors will necessarily lower RAN prices.

Will KT now be in any way compelled to use Fujitsu base station kit? If so, where’s the competition? There are also plenty of competitive bottlenecks among component suppliers, such as chips, which need to be resolved before the ‘open’ utopia can be achieved. The standards/specification process for OpenRAN also seems to be somewhat fragmented at this stage, which also needs sorting. Having said all that, collaborations such as this will probably be important contributions to the collective wisdom on the matter.

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