Nokia, Ericsson vie for KDDI’s 5G business

Shibuya station Japan
Both vendors are claiming top spots with KDDI in Japan. (Pixabay)

Both Nokia and Ericsson are claiming new breakthroughs related to KDDI’s 5G core network in Japan, with Nokia announcing the completion of a 5G core standalone (SA) network trial—marking a big milestone on the way to “pure” 5G—and Ericsson issuing a release of its own about software agility.

Most operators are starting out with a non-standalone (NSA) core for 5G, meaning they rely on LTE as an anchor. With the SA version of the 5G standard, there’s no falling back, so to speak, to LTE. Having an SA core enables more advanced services like network slicing, where service providers virtually partition network capacity based on their customers’ needs.

Nokia said its 5G AirGile cloud-native core can be rolled out in a traditional network environment or a cloud environment, and is fully compliant with 3GPP Release 15 5G core functions. Its trial with KDDI featured its 5G AirGile cloud-native core solution, and was conducted independently of previous generations’ mobile network architecture.

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According to the Finnish vendor, evolution of the core is key to the success of 5G, and decoupling data plane and control plane functions allows for more efficient, automated management of increasingly complex networks. With a 5G core SA network, consumers can experience the true benefits of 5G by fully leveraging enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), enhanced Machine Type Communication (eMTC) and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Connectivity (URLLC), Nokia said.

“For Nokia, 5G is much more than radio. It’s an end-to-end network transformation. We are pleased to have successfully completed this 5G core SA network trial together with KDDI, as it marks a crucial milestone for KDDI’s 5G SA deployment as well as for Japan’s 5G,” said John Harrington, head of Nokia Japan, in a statement. “Nokia will continue to contribute to the best of 5G and the cloud to enhance business processes and bring new applications and benefits to more markets and consumers.”

Ericsson’s breakthrough

KDDI also is working with Ericsson, which reported today that they were able to successfully demonstrate cloud-native Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline delivery for KDDI’s standalone 5G core network. Ericsson described it as a breakthrough in delivering software features speedily and efficiently.

Ericsson and KDDI created a cross-organizational end-to-end 5G CI/CD pipeline, moving from native to virtualized and cloud-native network functions. The pipeline seamlessly deploys software from Ericsson’s product development units into the KDDI’s environment without human intervention, according to the Swedish vendor.

Ericsson said its CI/CD pipeline enabled KDDI to deploy complicated sliced and distributed network functions more easily through simplified workflows, basically shortening time to market of new software from months to weeks.

Both claim top spots

Clearly, Nokia and Ericsson want to get on KDDI’s good side. Last year, both claimed to have been selected as a primary 5G vendor for KDDI. Nokia said KDDI would use its radio access solution AirScale, which supports both 4G and 5G, and that the contract for 5G radio “re-enforces the strong relationship between the two companies, which dates back over two decades.”

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For its part, Ericsson last September said its agreement with KDDI meant it would supply the operator with radio access network equipment, including those from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio, allowing KDDI to roll out commercial 5G services in several parts of Japan on sub-6 GHz and 28 GHz bands. KDDI’s selection of Ericsson as a 5G vendor “follows nearly four years of close collaboration on 5G between the companies,” according to Ericsson, which inked a memo of understanding with the operator in November 2015.