NEC’s world first open source 5G network could help stimulate Africa’s economy

28 Apr, 2020
Anthony Laing, GM of Networking at NEC XON

The world’s first 5G mobile network radios based on open and fully virtualised architecture, built by NEC in partnership with various vRAN platforms for Rakuten Mobile, will cut the costs to build and operate 5G networks, give operators the opportunity to lower tariffs, and enable them to deliver a raft of new services to help the economy recover.

5G is prohibitively expensive because it uses proprietary hardware and software technology developed by few global vendors, creating substantial barriers to market entry.

“Open source, virtualised 5G overcomes the cost barrier because you don’t have the prohibitive costs of being locked in to a single vendor’s proprietary gear as they try to recover their investment,” says Anthony Laing, GM of Networking at NEC XON. “It’s a game changer because it significantly alters how you create virtualised network functions using open rather than proprietary vRAN software. Decoupling the proprietary gear democratises 5G, which is massively beneficial for a whole spectrum of business and some consumer use cases.”

“It’s exactly the innovation we need in a post-lockdown world as we try to recover the economy. The lockdown has revealed the significance of wider, cheaper, more efficient online accessibility on a personal scale for students, businesspeople, retailers and many other kinds of public and private organisations,” he says. “Our business world changed overnight, and we have been forced to adapt.”

Anthony Laing, GM of Networking at NEC XON

He says that open source 5G has many trickle-down effects and nearly 4 500 operational base stations are a ground-breaking use case proving its effectiveness.

“It won’t cost our mobile operators billions to build 5G networks using the technologies we’ve developed in our R&D labs,” he says, “so the business case becomes a lot more favourable for network operators who will be able to broaden their spectrum of services, scale them exponentially, and pass the pricing benefits to customers. With this new technology we have an opportunity to also be efficient, cost-effective, and provide services people need, at scale, to help us create business, economic, and job opportunities.”

NEC XON is the African value-added systems integration business in partnership with NEC Corporation that has specialty expertise in developing, designing, deploying and maintaining carrier-grade mobile and fixed line networks for African telecommunications service providers.

Rakuten Mobile is a Japanese start-up mobile network that aims to disrupt the market using NEC’s ground-breaking 5G equipment. NEC has already started delivery of the new 5G base station radios and Rakuten has installed more than 3 500 of them.

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