Nokia tapped to automate KDDI’s 5G standalone core in Japan

Nokia is set to provide 5G core software for KDDI in Japan to boost automation as the operator shifts to standalone (SA) architecture.

The Finnish vendor said Thursday that it’s providing cloud-native, near zero-touch automation capabilities with its 5G Core, as well as software for 5G monetization and data management. The latter includes the network supplier’s converged charging, signaling, policy controller, mediation and registers, which will help capitalize on 5G revenue opportunities and streamline network operations, according to the announcement.

Part of that monetization aspect comes from 5G network slicing (a key feature some experts have said will finally become a reality in 2022), along with the ability for network-as-a-service offerings, IoT and new business models possible with a microservices-based solution.

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Nokia’s 5G core software is poised to automate lifecycle management for KDDI networks and enable continuous software delivery and integration (CD/CI). In addition, it’s providing digital operations software, cloud operations manager, its NetAct network management system and archive cloud to automate back up and storage of network data.

KDDI VP and managing officer of Technology Planning Tatsuo Sato in a statement said the deployment marks a key milestone in the transition of the operator’s 5G network.

“The evolution of our 5G architecture will enable us to fully automate and provide better services to our customers,” Sato continued. “We are pleased to be continuing our strong relationship with Nokia.”

Last December, Nokia rival Ericsson announced that KDDI would be using the Swedish vendor’s cloud-native dual-mode 5G core to launch standalone 5G services in Japan. Like Nokia, that deal also called for automation capabilities from a container-based microservices architecture to boost zero-touch operations, alongside CI/CD processes.

Ed Elkin with Core Networks Portfolio Marketing at Nokia explained further to Fierce how KDDI selected two vendors for the 5G SA core. Ericsson is providing the packet core for access mobility, management, session management, user plane, and network repository. Meanwhile, Nokia’s supporting the subscriber and network databases, device authentication, policy control, converged charging and signaling that enables the core’s Service Based (SBA) architecture.

“KDDI also selected Nokia for automation systems including fulfillment, assurance and orchestration,” Elkin added.

RELATED: SoftBank, KDDI add Nokia to their vendor list for shared 5G network

In Japan, KDDI also is jointly building out 5G in rural areaa with operator SoftBank and the pair more recently named Nokia as a supplier for shared radio access network (RAN) infrastructure. Ericsson was picked as a vendor for that project over of the summer.

Samsung, meanwhile, announced the start of trials with KDDI to deploy 5G virtualized RAN gear for mid-band spectrum ahead of commercialization planned for 2022. It marked Samsung’s first vRAN win in the country.

Mobile core market heating up with 5G SA

The latest KDDI deal with Nokia comes as Dell’Oro Group sees the mobile core market starting to heat up in Q4, thanks to an acceleration of 5G standalone launches.

"The expected growth rate for 2022 is more optimistic than reported last quarter with the commercial deployments of more 5G SA enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) networks," said Dave Bolan, research director at Dell'Oro, in a statement.

The firm said service providers deployed 14 commercial 5G SA networks for enhanced mobile broadband services, five of which went live after the third quarter.

“Europe had a surprising uptick in 3Q 2021 with 5G SA network commercial launches primarily in Germany,” Bolan continued.

The brighter looking fourth quarter follows Q3 when the firm said revenues for the overall mobile core network declined, with negative growth sequentially and year over year. Dell’Oro attributed the slowdown to 5G SA buildouts in China decelerating.

Nokia remained among top vendors for 5G packet core revenues last quarter, which in addition to Nokia the firm saw spread across just five suppliers of Ericsson, Huawei, Mavenir, NEC and ZTE.

Updated with comments from Ed Elkin.