NTT Docomo offers an open RAN product set for other telcos

LAS VEGAS — The Japanese operator NTT Docomo is doing something that sounds kind of similar to what Rakuten Mobile did when it created a separate company to package all its learnings from building the greenfield Rakuten Mobile network. Only NTT Docomo has created a new product lineup that specifically taps its experience with open radio access networks (open RAN).

This week at MWC Las Vegas, NTT Docomo announced a new product lineup called OREX, which stands for Open RAN Ecosystem Experience.

Docomo wants to become an open RAN vendor for international telecom operators.

This all sounds a bit like Rakuten Symphony, the company that spun out of Rakuten Mobile.

But Sadayuki Abeta, global head of open RAN solutions at NTT Docomo, said, “Operators can choose their preferred solution from OREX partners. For example, if operator want to use Red Hat to align their core network, OREX can provide NEC/Red Hat/Qualcomm/HPE solution. In case of Rakuten, only one combination they can provide.”

Rakuten Mobile worked with a long slate of vendor partners to build its greenfield network, and many of those vendors became part of the Rakuten Symphony matrix of partners. Rakuten also purchased some companies, such as Altiostar, and included that company’s technology in its offerings.

Docomo is also working with a large group of vendors, but it says its OREX solution can be customized to address the unique challenges of each customer, who can mix and match their choice of vendor products. “Docomo’s role is to be the integrator,” Abeta said.

Docomo has recently deployed the commercial OREX product, on a limited basis, in its own network. In order to use OREX, Docomo also worked with its vendor partners to create new radios to work with its spectrum frequencies. The company will keep introducing OREX into its network as it expands with 5G.

In terms of vendors Docomo named 13 OREX partners and 7 RU vendors.

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Abeta said Docomo is now talking with potential customers about OREX. It’s initially targeting Tier 2 operators since they don’t have as much capability to do open RAN integration themselves.

Rakuten Symphony

Both Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony have struggled financially. In August the CEO of both companies Tareq Amin abruptly departed.

Rakuten Mobile announced that Kazuhiro Suzuki and Sharad Sriwastawa would act as Co-CEOs of the mobile carrier. Rakuten Group CEO Mickey Mikitani has taken over as CEO of Symphony and Sharad Sriwastawa has become Acting President.

In September Rakuten Symphony’s North American CEO Azita Arvani also departed the company.