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NEC acquires Aspire to fuel Open RAN plan

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Japan’s NEC has strengthened its Open RAN systems integration (SI) credentials by acquiring Aspire Technologies.

Dublin-based Aspire specialises in the above. Since its founding in 2009, it has provided technology, software, consulting and SI services to tier-1 telcos all over the world. In recent years it has turned its attention to Open RAN, launching an Open Networks Lab tasked with helping partners accelerate the development, integration and testing of disaggregated network solutions.

It is also one of the suppliers that helped Deutsche Telekom with its deployment last summer of O-RAN Town, a multi-vendor, Open RAN network that covers the city of Neubrandenburg in north-east Germany. Aspire helped the telco create a blueprint for the deployment, both of services and the vertical integration of all Open RAN components. Incidentally, Aspire and NEC crossed paths on this project, the latter supplying radio units to DT.

On that note, NEC, which jumped on the Open RAN bandwagon in late 2020, has further ramped up its Open RAN activities this year. In February it bolstered its Open RAN product portfolio with no fewer than 18 new radio units. In addition to working with Deutsche Telekom on O-RAN Town, NEC in March also won a deal to provide SI services for Telefónica Germany’s Open RAN small cell deployment in Munich. Meanwhile last month, NEC’s Australian unit was chosen to participate in phase one of the New South Wales (NSW) government’s A$300 million ($206 million) Mobile Coverage Project, which will investigate the use of – among other things – Open RAN technology to improve rural coverage.

NEC said the acquisition of Aspire will bolster its SI offering for Open RAN 5G applications, which it said require an increased level of systems design and integration when compared to legacy ecosystems.

“The SI business is all about people and expertise. The strong capabilities and the deep pool of talented engineers at Aspire Technology, combined with their portfolio of technology solutions and applications, is a big step forward for our NEC Open Networks strategy,” said Naohisa Matsuda, general manager of NEC’s 5G Strategy and Business, in a statement late last week. “NEC is now better prepared than any supplier to integrate disaggregated network components into a well-tuned ecosystem.”

Aspire founder and CEO Bill Walsh said his company shares a common vision with NEC of the 5G and Open RAN market.

“We believe the combination of NEC and Aspire Technology will provide tremendous benefits to our customers, both legacy network-based and those evolving to the more Open environment, and also to the broader 5G and Open RAN marketplace, which is growing rapidly,” he said.

Aspire might not be the only Open RAN vendor that gets snapped up by a bigger fish. Virtualised network pioneer Parallel Wireless is in trouble and therefore might make an attractive acquisition target. First reported by The Mobile Network late last week, Parallel has allegedly laid off as much as 80 percent of its workforce. A quick look at LinkedIn seems to confirm that redundancies are indeed widespread. For example, as our sister publication Light Reading noted, Maxime Dumas, GM of Parallel’s Canada office, took to LinkedIn to confirm that his office has been closed and that all employees have been let go.

Parallel has been in the disaggregated, virtualised networking game a long time – before Open RAN – and it would be surprising if its intellectual property and its customer relationships don’t prove attractive to potential suitors. And with a survey published by US manufacturer Jabil last week suggesting that Open RAN deployments are expected to take off in two years, there is still time for someone to turn Parallel into a success story.

 

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