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5G Update: DOCOMO, Fujitsu and NEC Achieve World’s First Carrier Aggregation

NEC Achieved the Feat with Docomo and Fujitsu Using 5G Frequency Bands on Multi-Vendor RAN

Many global technology companies and telecom service providers are coming together to forge a strong Open Radio Access Network initiative (O-RAN initiatives). These initiatives are expected to accelerate the adoption of 5G applications across industries. In one such collaboration update on O-RAN, NTT DOCOMO, INC., Fujitsu Limited and NEC Corporation have achieved what they believe to be the world’s first carrier aggregation using 5G frequency bands in a multi-vendor radio access network (RAN).

Power of Carrier Aggregation and O-RAN 5G In Japan

The Japanese 5G Telecom market is slated to displace the other big players in the industry. Currently, Japan represents the third-largest market in the world by size of sales and revenue. World’s three largest fixed and mobile network operators have ensured that Japan telecom market leads the world and remains a dynamic industry even during the challenging times such as those arising from pandemics and regional political destabilisation.

Currently, NTT DOCOMO, Japan’s leading mobile operator with over 79 million subscriptions, is one of the world’s foremost contributors to 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile network technologies.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, NEC, Fujitsu and Docomo’s ORAN Carrier aggregation collaboration makes more sense than ever before in the global and local 5G market.

The biggest driving force behind O-RAN initiatives is the growing number of internet-connected devices around the world. By 2025, there would be 50 billion (lower threshold value) internet connected devices that would seek high-speed networking and telecom services, compared to 22 billion devices we had in 2018. The biggest challenge in making all these devices stay connected to all-time 5G connection — interoperability.

NTT Docomo’s initiative with Fujitsu and NEC would change all that, at least in the Japanese telecom market.

Interoperability with different vendors’ 5G base station equipment was achieved in compliance with specifications established by the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) Alliance, an international group working to create more open and intelligent next-generation radio access networks.

What is the Carrier Aggregation Capacity in this Initiative?

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Carrier aggregation was achieved using the 3.7GHz and 4.5GHz bands designated for 5G networks. In addition to this dual connectivity achieved by bundling LTE bands, downlink speeds of 4.2 Gbps will be achievable, enabling ultra-fast data transmission.

DOCOMO already provides commercial 5G services in Japan through a multi-vendor RAN that connects baseband units and remote radio units manufactured by Fujitsu and NEC based on O-RAN’s open front-haul specifications. The same system configuration was used to achieve this 5G carrier aggregation.

Naoki Tani, Senior Vice President at DOCOMO, said: “The deployment of O-RAN-compliant products will enable DOCOMO to flexibly build networks and provide 5G services that meet customer needs. Carrier aggregation furthering 5G high-speed data communication in a multi-vendor RAN developed jointly with Fujitsu and NEC is an important achievement. DOCOMO will continue to work with industry partners to promote open RAN and 5G services.”

One of the biggest beneficiaries of 5G based O-RAN initiatives would be the manufacturing and banking sectors in Asia and Africa.

Shingo Mizuno, EVP and Vice Head of System Platform Business at Fujitsu, commented: “We are delighted to have succeeded in achieving carrier aggregation for 5G high-speed data communication in an environment featuring interconnection of multi-vendor equipment compliant with O-RAN specifications. This key milestone in the evolution of O-RAN will contribute greatly to the delivery of convenient 5G services and RAN openness, which Fujitsu is actively supporting with the aim of enhancing 5G services.”

Atsuo Kawamura, Executive Vice President at NEC and President of the company’s Network Services Business Unit, said: “The success of carrier aggregation in the 5G bands is a critical step in the ongoing enhancement of 5G network performance. I am very pleased that in collaboration with DOCOMO and Fujitsu we have now achieved high-performance O-RAN multi-vendor connectivity. This will lay the foundation for more open 5G services and business.”

The results of the interoperability verification were presented between September 25 and 30, during the O-RAN Plugfest web conferences organized by the O-RAN Alliance. Plugfest was held concurrently in Japan, China, India, Europe, and North America, facilitating proofs of concept and interoperability tests of O-RAN products and solutions.

Going forward, DOCOMO, Fujitsu, and NEC will continue working toward the early introduction of commercial 5G carrier aggregation services.

Beyond core communications services, DOCOMO is challenging new frontiers in collaboration with a growing number of entities (“+d” partners), creating exciting and convenient value-added services that change the way people live and work. Under a medium-term plan toward 2020 and beyond, DOCOMO is pioneering a leading-edge 5G network to facilitate innovative services that will amaze and inspire customers beyond their expectations. DOCOMO is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (9437).

Fujitsu is the leading Japanese information and communication technology (ICT) company offering a full range of technology products, solutions and services.

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