NTT DoCoMo achieves multi-vendor base station interoperability

Shibuya station Japan
Historically, baseband unit software has been tied to proprietary hardware, forcing operators to choose one vendor. (FierceWireless)

NTT DoCoMo, along with its partners Fujitsu, NEC and Nokia, has achieved multi-vendor interoperability across a variety of 4G and 5G base station equipment compatible with the standards of the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) Alliance. The partners believe this to be the world's first realization of this level of multi-vendor interoperability in 4G and 5G base station equipment conforming to O-RAN specifications.

DoCoMo will deploy the equipment in the pre-commercial 5G service it plans to launch on September 20 in Japan.

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The O-RAN Alliance is working to create open source software for the baseband unit to do signal processing. Historically, baseband unit software has been tied to proprietary hardware. So mobile operators have had to choose one vendor for all their base station equipment.

The DoCoMo partners say the ability to deploy and interconnect base station equipment from different vendors, thanks to O-RAN, will make it possible to select the equipment most suitable in any given environment, such as base stations offering broad coverage in rural areas or small base stations that can be deployed in urban areas where space is limited.

DoCoMo chairs the O-RAN Alliance and has been leading the charge on the international standardization of signal transmission specifications. The Japanese operator plans to combine its new 5G network with its existing 4G network using equipment from diverse vendors. 

In the 4G and 5G base station equipment being deployed in DoCoMo's pre-commercial 5G service, O-RAN X2 profile specifications are used to establish the connection between 4G base stations and 5G base station centralized units.

The O-RAN X2 profile specifications provide a foundation for interoperability between 4G base stations and 5G base stations manufactured by diverse partners in 5G non-standalone (5G NSA) networks by taking 3GPP X2 interface specifications and specifying detailed standards for their usage.