Ericsson and APT establish first 5G multi-operator core network in Taiwan

Ericsson has helped Asia-Pacific Telecom (APT) deploy the first 5G non-standalone multi-operator core network (MOCN) sharing set up in Taiwan.

Earlier this year Ericsson won a deal with APT for a nationwide LTE upgrade that included 5G-ready equipment from the vendor’s RAN portfolio, along with 5G non-standalone (NSA) licenses to support Multi-Operator Core Networks and integration with Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET).  

The 5G MOCN is a first for Taiwan, following a 2020 agreement between APT and FET to deliver 5G services in the 3.5 GHz band, and was launched within six months. As one flavor of network sharing, MOCN is where operators maintain separate core networks, but share radio access elements like radios, base stations, backhaul networks and controllers, as well as spectrum. Multi-operator RAN (MORAN) is a similar active network sharing setup in terms of RAN but carriers each use their own dedicated spectrum. KDDI and SoftBank are using networking sharing gear from Ericsson to deploy MORAN for the first time in Japan.

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According to the GSMA, MORAN and MOCN can happen on a per-site basis and still allows for strategic differentiation between operators. Compared to passive infrastructure sharing (meaning non-electronic infrastructure like sites, where carriers still have their own network equipment), GSMA says the operational complexity is higher for MORAN/MOCN but carriers have greater opportunity to save on opex, as well as reduce their network footprint.

In Taiwan, APT and FET’s partnership includes 700 MHz shared RAN, which will be used for both 4G and 5G. Ericsson was tapped to upgrade several sites with new 5G RAN gear and existing basebands already installed became 5G capable, in part to be on par with FET’s network technology and performance.

APT didn’t secure any spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band at Taiwan’s 5G auction last year, where Far EasTone obtained 80 MHz of 3.5 GHz spectrum. Three other mobile operators picked up 3.5 GHz spectrum including, Chunghwa Telecom (90 MHz), Taiwan Mobile (60 MHz) and Taiwan Star (40 MHz).

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FET launched commercial 5G service in July 2020, tapping Ericsson as its sole RAN and 5G core provider. That relationship expanded in March to include 5G standalone, non-standalone dual-mode 5G core and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services.

The APT deal for the LTE upgrade and MOCN included Ericsson Network Manager, which enables dynamic operation between 4G and 5G networks. The Swedish vendor is also providing OSS migration services and upgrades.

“With the launch of the 5G MOCN, we are able to maximize the effectiveness of the existing network infrastructure and significantly increase 5G availability across the island,” said Chafic Nassif, president of Ericsson Taiwan, in a statement. “The efficient network integration and deployment plays an essential role in achieving our sustainability ambitions while leveraging the best possible connectivity to improve lives.”

Taiwan’s largest mobile operator Chunghwa Telecom was the first to turn on 5G services in the country at the end of June 2020, using spectrum in 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz band. Both Ericsson and competitor Nokia are Chunghwa Telecom 5G suppliers. Nokia also is supplying Taiwan Mobile’s 5G RAN, core, and IMS as part of 3-year deal.