Altiostar fetes O-RAN tests with Rakuten, NEC

Altiostar
Altiostar has pioneered RAN disaggregation since 2013. (FierceWireless)

Altiostar announced that it has tested O-RAN Alliance-compliant multi-vendor multi-input, multi-output (mMIMO) 5G with vRAN in collaboration with NEC and Rakuten Mobile.

To get specific, Altiostar said it’s integrating the O-RAN distributed unit (O-DU) functionality of its virtual radio access network (vRAN) software with NEC’s O-RAN Radio Unit (O-RU) using fully compliant control, user, synchronization and management plane protocols based on O-RAN Alliance guidelines.

The 5G layer is built using container network functions (CNF) that leverage Rakuten Mobile’s cloud infrastructure platform, which is part of its 4G network buildout.

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“Rakuten Mobile is a big supporter of O-RAN principles and has seen the benefit of supply chain diversity in our own network,” said Rakuten Mobile CTO Tareq Amin in a press release. “By combining the spectral efficiency of massive MIMO along with an advanced cloud-based RAN, we are leveraging and introducing advanced innovative technology from both NEC and Altiostar, who are specialists in these respective fields.”

Rakuten revealed last week that it was pushing back its timeline to launch 5G service in Japan by three months due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Rakuten commercially launched its greenfield 4G network in early April and had planned to introduce 5G service in June, but that’s now delayed until at least September.

RELATED: Altiostar: Open RAN, virtualization ‘not pie in the sky’

Altiostar’s history dates back to Starent, a startup whose mission was to decouple the mobile packet core from the RAN. Cisco bought Starent in 2009 for $2.9 billion, and in 2011 Cisco helped fund some of the members of the Starent team to create Altiostar.

The company says its pioneering achievements in RAN disaggregation date back to 2013 when it first introduced a split between the higher non-real-time layers of the protocol stack and the lower layers of the stack. The industry then standardized the concept via the 3GPP and what is now known as the Option-2 split between the centralized unit (CU) and the distributed unit (DU), paving the way for operators to think differently when it comes to disaggregation and network deployment.

RELATED: Altiostar deploys open vRAN for India’s Bharti Airtel

Altiostar and Rakuten are both among the 31 founding members of the new Open RAN Policy Coalition that  launched earlier this  month. The purpose of the group is to advocate for government policies supporting the development and adoption of open and interoperable solutions in the RAN.  

A lot of eyes are on Rakuten as it’s the first to really embrace an open RAN architecture for a greenfield network, one that Dish Network in the U.S. intends to pursue for its 5G deployment. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has said that Dish has learned a lot from Rakuten’s deployment and will do some things differently.

Dish already has named its first vendor, Mavenir, to deliver cloud-native OpenRAN software under a multi-year agreement. Mavenir also is a vendor for Rakuten’s wireless network and is a member of the Open RAN Policy Coalition, as is Dish.

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