KDDI, SoftBank tap Ericsson for multi-operator RAN

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In addition to network sharing among operators,  Ericsson said the product can be used in industrial or campus environments. (Getty Images)

KDDI and SoftBank are using network sharing gear from Ericsson to deploy a multi-operator radio access network for the first time in Japan.

According to Ericsson, the equipment allows service providers to keep their respective operations and management capabilities, but helps to bring down costs while deploying infrastructure more quickly. With operators sharing RAN infrastructure they can also build out more density, looking towards nationwide 5G deployment.

KDDI and Softbank are leveraging Ericsson Radio System products, which include baseband, radio, and transport, along with spectrum sharing and Ericsson’s Uplink Booster. The latter extends 5G mid-band coverage with improved uplink throughput and more efficient use of spectrum. The operators are focused multi-band spectrum support. Ericsson’s gear can handle network sharing for 4G LTE and 5G New Radio (NR), and on both TDD (Time Division Duplex) and FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) spectrum.  

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In addition to network sharing among operators,  Ericsson said the product can be used in industrial or campus environments – where the RAN supports both the onsite network and public network, with implications for industrial users looking to digitize operations.  

In the announcement, KDDI and Softbank executives highlighted faster 5G rollouts.

“To provide 5G coverage to our customers across Japan with extraordinary speed, we are proactively working with KDDI and Ericsson,” said Tomohiro Sekiwa, Senior Vice President and CNO of SoftBank, in a statement. “The MORAN solution is key to this success and we have high expectations for this effort.”

KDDI VP & Managing Officer of Technology and Planning Tatsuo Sato stated: “With the MORAN solution, we will be among the first to offer excellent 5G experiences to our customers.”

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Ericsson already had been chosen as a RAN and core network supplier for KDDI and Softbank, including support for standalone (SA) 5G services in Japan. Samsung is also supplying KDDI, which launched 5G services in 2020.

SoftBank also launched 5G services last year using sub-6 GHz spectrum. This March it deployed commercial 5G millimeter wave service, joining other mobile operators in Japan that had done so previously.   

In April of last year KDDI and SoftBank announced a joint venture to build out 5G in rural areas of Japan more quickly using shared infrastructure.

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Bringing down costs and speeding up deployment with network sharing agreements is something operators in Europe, including DT, Telefonica and Vodafone have done. For example, active network sharing agreements for rural areas in Germany, in which the partners grant each other mutual network access at locations where the other doesn’t have infrastructure. Other agreements involve the construction of new sites.

In 2019, Chinese operators reached an agreement to jointly build a 5G network and collaborate on the rollout of base stations.